Students at Salish Coast Elementary School in Port Townsend and Chimacum Elementary School headed into their weekend with heads full of facts about healthy eating Jan. 11, thanks to the Real Food Show co-created by a Port Townsend native and co-sponsored by the Port Townsend Food Co-op.
Rather than teaching kids about the four food groups in a dry and academic manner, the Real Food Show presented the colorfully clad characters Frank N. Stein, played by Wren Schultz, and Beans Prout, played by Della Plaster, to intersperse advice on healthy snacking and keeping fit with fun activities, acrobatic demonstrations and comedic skits.
Of the five years that the Real Food Show has been performed for younger audiences, Schultz has been part of the past two. He’s witnessed firsthand some impacts of the lessons he and Plaster have provided as Frank and Beans.
“We’ve gone back to some of the schools we visited, and the kids rush up to us and say, ‘Oh, I’m playing basketball now,’ or ‘I’m eating broccoli!’” Schultz said. “By making the material entertaining, it helps lodge it in their heads. We hear things from kids, like how much they love vegetables, that you don’t often hear from kids outside of one of our shows.”
Schultz’s juggling and balancing skills are on par with those of Plaster, who frequently concludes their shows together with her standing on his shoulders.
Plaster, who was born and raised in Port Townsend, honed her skills in the Bellingham Circus Guild.
Plaster co-wrote the Real Food Show with Seattle’s Sam Williams, who performed as part of the Flying Karamazov Brothers under the stage name Smerdyakov Karamazov. Williams died in 2016, but the Real Food Show lives on with Plaster and her other partners, Schultz and Jason Quick, the latter of whom plays Frank Lee.
The Real Food Show has since been performed at more than 70 elementary schools for more than 25,000 students. Before that, the show was field-tested by Plaster and her fellow vaudevillians.
“One of our test runs was at a local business that was hosting a small party,” Plaster said. “There were all these kids running around, and they’d come right up to the edge of the stage to watch us.”
Plaster and her partners have continued to tweak the Real Food Show throughout the years. They have excited audiences with jokes and balancing stacks of boxes and hopping on unicycles, and they have used hand signals to help kids quiet down when they get too loud to hear the lessons.
Like Schultz, Plaster noted the end of their shows often see them thronged by kids who want to tell them their favorite vegetables and exercises.
“We’ve been told by teachers and other adults at these schools that the kids who almost never engage with programs like this were engaged the whole time,” Plaster said. “They’ve really been absorbed by it.”
The 35-minute shows were brought to the Salish Coast and Chimacum by the Port Townsend and Bellingham food co-ops at no cost to either school.