Storyteller sparks imaginations at library show GLEN BURNIE

THE TALE OF THE OOWANGALAYMA TREE

June 23, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

The audience shyly looked askance at actor Sean Layne as he began a story about the oowangalayma tree. Midway through, children were quietly reciting the four attributes of the wise Imbera. And by the end, they were so enchanted they had lost their apprehension and were screaming instructions at him.

More than 150 children and adults packed a room at the North County Library yesterday to see Mr. Layne in the first of his free shows that will tour county libraries this summer. The first performance yesterday morning in Harundale was so popular that some people in line for it ended up with tickets to the midday show.

"In order to pretend," Mr. Layne told the audience, "I must use a special part of my brain -- my imagination."

The delighted children, clearly, did likewise.

With a chair and a few items of clothing as his set and props, the actor assumed the roles of several animals, pulling a cloth tube over his head for one, holding up scarf ends for another.

The story, "The Tale of the Name of the Tree," is adapted from an old Danny Kaye recording for children written by Patti Price, Mr. Layne said.

The story line -- without divulging anything crucial -- revolves around the wise Imbera revealing to animals the name of a tree.

Mr. Layne acts as the narrator, Imbera and the animals. He leaps over the chair, works his way around obstacles visible only to the mind's eye, and makes enormous gestures with his body. Audience participation is part of the story that proved to have universal appeal for all ages, and the audience giggled, shouted and fussed in all the right places.

"I think they loved it," said Lynne Thompson of Old Mill, who brought 10 children to the show.

And that went for her 2-year-old son, Matthew, too.

He did the arm gestures for the attributes of the wise Imbera, joining the actor and the older children in the crowd.

Mr. Layne is part of the three-member children's acting troupe InterAct Story Theatre, a 12-year-old touring company based in Silver Spring.

"I do three different shows by myself," Mr. Layne, 27, of Lorton, Va., said. "This one is my favorite."

Library associate Cathy Hollerbach said the library events are designed to draw children to the library while school is out, to maintain their reading skills.

As long as they are in the buildings for performances, they usually pick up a few books themselves or are cajoled by parents and grandparents to do so.

Adults praised the program for doing what it is intended to do.

"It makes her want to go get books," Maria Williams of Old Mill said of her 8-year-old daughter, Jennifer.

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