Pandora's hands hovered over a sparkle-filled jar, ready to unleash horrors and hope.
"No!" shouted the crowd of sixth-graders.
They gasped, they laughed and (their teachers hope) they learned a thing or two while watching Wednesday's play.
The Imaginary Theater Company, a touring ensemble from the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, stopped by the Brick District Playhouse to perform "Heroes, Monsters and Myths." It's a whirlwind one-act tour of Greek mythology, mixed with some lofty ideas about how modern context informs how we view myths and monsters alike.
The group introduces young audiences to the magic of theater through high-energy, child-friendly performances. They've been performing the current play since January: just four actors, a stage manager, a compact set and a van, out on the road.
"If there were more than four actors, it might get a little crowded," actress Lana Dvorak said.
The performance, which featured such classic figures as Persephone, Icarus and Hercules (a woman in this version — "If I were a guy, I'd be Himcules!" quipped the actress), received rave reviews from the teachers and students alike.
"It's excellent to have such a professional group come and perform in our town," said Bethany Moebes, a vocal music teacher at Fulton Middle School. "They were thrilled with the performance."
Sixth-grader Spencer Ousley described the play as "different."
"It was a lot better than other plays I've seen," he said.
When asked whether it was anyone's first time seeing a play, a number of students raised their hands.
That's one of the reasons why English teacher Heather Yore was so happy to be able to bring the troupe to town.
"This group of kids has really gravitated toward reading theater," she said.
She stumped across the Imaginary Theater Company while researching alternative field trips that might appeal to the children's interest in theater. Sixth-graders are also currently studying Greek mythology in social science, she added.
"They're learning how to bring something they learned about in social sciences and see it in a modern light," Yore said.
And, hopefully, learning about how to be a polite audience, Moebes said.
Wednesday's performance was a first in other ways, too. It marked the first time a professional theater group has performed at the Brick District Playhouse since its renovation.
"We finally got to utilize our dressing rooms," the Playhouse's Steve Merriott said. "We're using our new lighting system, too, which (the troupe) loves."
Troupe members praised the renovated theater.
"I love it when we get to come to theaters like this," Dvorak said. "Usually we're performing in gyms and cafeterias."