COLUMN: 'Last of the Dragons' studio show brings world of princesses and dragons to CMU

Families gathered to see the lighthearted studio show, which had engaging characters and a talking puppet dragon


Central Michigan University studio theatre presents The Last of the Dragons by Kristin Walter. The dress rehearsal was held in the Townsend Kiva on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m. (CM-Life | Soli Gordon) 

"The Last of The Dragons" was featured in Moore Hall’s Townsend Kiva and ran Thursday, Feb. 22 through Sunday, Feb. 25. An audience of families, including many young children, attended the show, which was full of visual gags and had a heartwarming plot.

Younger audiences could not keep their eyes off the dragon, when she appeared at the end of the play. Neither could I. A puppet with white scales and a big, round-toothed mouth, she was controlled by actor Chloe Price, who made all the exaggerated faces beside her dragon puppet.

CMU sophomore Matthew Hoeldke, left, and senior Chloe Price, right, perform in the dress rehearsal of The Last of the Dragons on Wednesday, Feb. 21, in the Townsend Kiva. Hoeldke plays the role of the King, and Price plays the Dragon. (CM-Life | Soli Gordon)

What was the play about?

The play was set in the world of princesses and dragons. 

Much like in the movie "Shrek," the kidnapping was arranged. The king tied his daughter to a rock so that the princess could be married off to her rescuer.

However, the prince was scared of fighting the dragon, and the princess was eager to do it instead. Through a hinted romance between the princess' nurse and the prince’s valet, the princess arranged to meet with the prince and the two agreed to fight the dragon together.

I loved the plot twist at the end, when the last dragon didn’t want to kidnap the princess or fight the prince. It turns out, none of the dragons ever wanted to hurt the princess, and the princess and prince ended up adopting the dragon and taking her back to the castle with them instead.

The king reached for his sword when the dragon bounded up to him. He’d heard the dragon coming and he thought she had eaten his daughter. The princess stopped him from hurting the dragon and told him that she was a “tame” dragon.

One final surprise awaited the audience as the story came to an end. Throughout the play, the king had told the story of himself slaying a dragon, exaggerating the dragon's size more each time. Right before the king agreed that the dragon could stay, he pulled the dragon to the side.

It turned out that his story about slaying his dragon was made up. He’d never fought a dragon.

The dragon the king would have killed was tiny and accidentally crashed into a rock, but the princess survived. The king had spent the whole play retelling his story of victory, and he told the last dragon to keep the real story a secret.

How was the acting?

CMU junior Trinity Sapp performs in the dress rehearsal of The Last of the Dragons on Wednesday, Feb. 21 in the Townsend Kiva. Sapp plays the role of the Princess. (CM-Life | Soli Gordon)

Trinity Sapp played the princess, and said that before Friday the actors performed "The Last of the Dragons" for elementary school children who traveled to CMU from Midland and Mount Pleasant.

Sapp's previous roles onstage were meant for an adult audience. "The Last of the Dragons" encouraged the actors to be more relaxed on stage. They practiced so that they could engage a younger audience during rehearsals.

“We were in rehearsal, and the director and stage manager and our swings were yelling childish, silly explanations at us … so we could get used to the interactions and having someone respond to us while we were in the zone of acting," Sapp said.

The actors clearly poured passion and energy into developing their personalities onstage and interacting with the audience. All of the actors were very engaging.

They played to the children in the audience, but the lighthearted action of the play also appealed to the adults.

The king (Matthew Hoeldtke) often grabbed a sword and energetically acted out the story of himself slaying a dragon. I found myself laughing every time the king repeated his dragon-slaying story throughout the play, exaggerating the dragon's size more each time. When the prince was nervous, he pulled out a paper bag and breathed into it.

My favorite things about the play

The funniest scenes in the show were the high-energy visual gags for the adults and children. The characters and plot twists were charming and whimsical. It was easy to get sucked into the world of the story.

One of my favorite scenes was an accidental game of hide-and-seek, where the prince was trying to hide his nerves about fighting the dragon from the princess. Sapp and Randi Bumstead (Elicia Shadrake on Saturday), who played her nurse, spent an entire scene chasing after the prince and his valet (Sean Haaseth and Noah Walther), who were trying to hide from them.

Audience interaction also drew me in to the plot.

The narrator (Madeline Gibb) walked through the first row of the audience and spoke directly to audience members. The dragon purred and pouted her lips and bounded across the stage so the audience could see her up close. She was also one of the characters who walked around to make eye contact with audience members during the show.

CMU freshman Sean Haaseth, left, junior Trinity Sapp, middle, and senior Chloe Price perform in the dress rehearsal of The Last of the Dragons on Wednesday, Feb. 21, in the Townsend Kiva Theater in Moore. (CM-Life | Soli Gordon)

One of the warmest scenes was when the prince and princess first met and sat together talking under the stars.

There were so many little details in the show that made it heartwarming and funny, and I was drawn in more with every scene. While two romances blossomed during the story, the show existed beyond the average fairy tale, defying expectations with a story of found family and friendship.

I wasn’t the only one enjoying the humor: parents and children alike reacted to the wit of the characters. Emerging from the Kiva theater was like waking up from a childhood dream.

Offstage after the show, the actors smiled and ran to each other and hugged. Some bent down to talk to the little kids who had been in the audience. Some of them hugged parents or friends in the audience as they left the auditorium.

There was an energy on and offstage that was contagious and everyone I saw was smiling. I was, too.

I give this show a 10/10. Not just any play makes me laugh and smile so much that my jaw hurts afterward.