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INSIDE OUT: TOY Tours the Tummy

The Theatre of Youth is presenting a play which every parent should seriously consider. It could be the best gift you have ever given your child.  INSIDE OUT is educational and instructional, yet it is also entertaining.

The kids will be mesmerized by the action, but parents and kids alike will come out asking questions about the most fundamental challenge of modern life: How do we make smart food choices?  What happens to the food we put in put bodies?  How do we process that food, and how do poor choices affect our health over time?

You will be amazed at what you did not know.  You will be amazed to learn the lessons the play offers. Most of all, you will be astounded how your children will react, how this little play will trigger a thought process that can literally change how we live our lives.

As the controversy over public funding for theatre arts in Erie County swirls about, not unlike the frosty winds of November, one can argue the relative merits of fiscal austerity versus the quality of life issues. The political positions are so entrenched, so self-assured, and polarized, there is little hope of any meaningful dialogue, let alone practical compromise.

Yet here, in a nutshell, in this clever children’s play, INSIDE OUT, Theatre of Youth Artistic Director Meg Quinn demonstrates unequivocally why the quality of life argument, under any reasonably objective interpretation, trumps the notion that the arts in Buffalo should only be about how many Casino Niagara tourists, while they on their way to Canada and beyond, might fall off the tour bus for a couple hours’ visit at the Zoo.
INSIDE OUT is proof that theatre improves our lives. Theatre can change lives. Theatre can have a salutary, life-long influence which alters the course of a child’s lifestyle and breaks the cycle of ignorance and bad-habits which dominate the nutritional values of most WNY families.  

INSIDE OUT is all about nutrition.  Why, one asks would one create a play about food?  Ms. Quinn explains: “Because children in WNY suffer one of the highest rates of obesity in the nation, TOY is producing the most important play of our 39 year history…INSIDE OUT.”

Lest you think this is just some dry and boring lecture, an extension of those awful Health Classes in high school, take heart. This is an extremely well told story, the captivating tale of Tom, who is “accidentally involved in a clandestine government operation, when he becomes trapped in the body of another kid.  Tom meets the team of workers who exist in that body and are responsible for managing the food choices dumped in there.  An emotional learning experience follows.”

Using every theatre trick and tool to heighten learning styles, INSIDE OUT “shows the audience the inside effect of sugar and greasy fast food; demonstrates the action of calories in/calories out, depicts how plaque blocks arteries, and much more.”
The set, a sort of  submarine’s engine room with knobs and pipes and tubes and dials,  serves as the “stomach” which receives wave after wave of fast food, soda pop and sugary treats galore, all of which must be accounted for and somehow digested. No breakfast? Chaos ensues.  Sugary soda pop followed by hours of video games?  Those calories must go somewhere: a gloopy vat of fat!

The information is presented in such a way that children can easily process it. The bombarded cast, whose task it is to manage the incoming foodstuffs, is headed by TOY veteran Tim Newell, who plays the captain with great authority and wit.  The cast so capably captivate the young audience that the kids are almost unaware of the powerful message until after the lesson has been ingrained.

And the play strikes a very deep chord with children, who exhibit an almost preternatural appreciation of the subject matter, and the consequences of ignoring the challenge of maintaining a healthy diet.  Many parents report that, after attending INSIDE OUT, their children now ask questions about nutritional values, calorie intake, food choices and exercise.  

The play offers children more than a blunt look at the hazards of the modern American diet, it offers alternatives ways to change eating habits, plans for diet and exercise. Children feel empowered and take all this heart.

Congratulations to TOY Artistic Director Meg Quinn on a job very well done. She has not only created this program, written the play and directed it, she put together the substantial funding for the program through a coalition of interested local parties: The Oishei Foundation, which funded the pilot project; ongoing support comes from a 5-year commitment from Independent Health for Health and Wellness programming; and The Research Center for Stroke and Heart Disease (Jacobs Neurological Center) is a project partner for INSDIE OUT!

Before chopping public funding for local theatre, the self-proclaimed “business” people, who are currently calling the shots in county hall, should take note of this regional asset. This is a program worthy of national attention, worthy of national funding and should be on the lips of every local official who speaks to the powers that be in Albany and Washington.

INSIDE OUT is precisely the kind of exceptional export which Buffalo’s cultural workers can produce. This is a program every school child in the country should experience.   

INSIDE OUT – Theatre of Youth, directed by Meg Quinn, public performances Nov. 9,10,12.  Allendale Theatre. 203 Allen Street, 716-884-4400  

See a clip of the play here.

Find the school curriculum at:

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