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READiculous showcases library's many talents

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readiculous pic

Susan Bishop, as Cool Motorcycle Dude and Alissa Henkel, as Fair Maiden, take turns telling a story as a school assignment in "Once Upon a Royal Superbaby," by Kevin O'Malley, at a performance of Really READiculous at the Decatur Public Library. The women are preparing their sixth new show.

DECATUR – With only two regulars in READiculous, performing books that have more than two characters is difficult at best, and in many cases impossible.

However, doing a show at the Decatur Public Library, the duo's home turf, offered a chance to perform some of those books, thanks the to presence and thespian talents of children's librarians Katie Gross and John Schirle, who pitched in on Tuesday.

“Whenever we're looking for books, we're primarily looking for books that have two characters,” said Alissa Henkel, who makes up READiculous with Susan Bishop. “Mo Willems has all these wonderful books that are hysterical that we want to do, but you can't just take a ready-made cast, especially for three or four lines (of dialogue). But when we're here, we get to do some of those books, because we have built-in storytellers right here.”

Henkel and Bishop perform their show in schools and other venues throughout the area during the school year and in the summer for the summer reading program at the library, but the winter show is just about the only one that's open to the public. By having it at the library, where kids can't get there without an adult, Bishop said, they can show kids and adults how many resources the library has, and encourage the whole family to make use of it.

They always provide a display of the books in their performance, and a list of titles, too, so kids can check out the books and read them or have them read to them if they're very young. Mo Willems, whose "Elephant and Piggie" series is a favorite of Henkel and Bishop, has written other books, too, and some of those appeared in the show.

The women have hats and costumes galore and act out the stories while holding copies of the books, because they want the children in the audience to make the connection between the reading and the storytelling.

When they visit schools, Henkel said, they sometimes ask teachers or the principal for assistance with extra narration or characters, but it takes a certain kind of person to be able to do that on the spot, so most often they stick to books they can do with just the two of them.

READiculous has been performing since November 2011, and the women are preparing their sixth show, trying different books to see which ones will work best. In the four years they've been performing, they've done shows for 20,000 children.

“We have a couple of really great books that we didn't even do because we're so excited about them,” Bishop said. “We want to practice them. We've only been practicing this show for about three weeks.”

Really READiculous has its own Facebook page and is also represented on the library's Facebook page. A contest is under way in which kids can have their picture taken with the cardboard R2D2 and C3PO in the children's department and post the photo on the library's page. A winner will be drawn on Feb. 15 and will get to take the cardboard cutout home.


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