Becoming Dora 

Adult actress takes the Landmark stage as preteen TV character

The touring stage production, scheduled at the Landmark Theater April 2-4, is based on the popular preschool show “Dora the Explorer.” Dora is a 7-year-old Latina heroine whose adventures take place in an imaginative, tropical world filled with jungles, beaches and rain forests.

At 4 feet 11 inches, Bianco, who is of Spanish and Italian descent, is the perfect size to play Dora. Ironically, Bianco began her career at the age of 7 when she auditioned for a role in “The Wizard of Oz.” “I was too young to play Dorothy, but they gave me a solo,” Bianco says. “Since then, I’ve never stopped singing or performing.”

To date, Bianco has performed in more than 40 productions, including as the Narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” She won the role of Dora a little over a month after her graduation from Tisch.

“The director asked me to read from a bowling manual,” Bianco recalls, noting that she thought the request a bit odd. In retrospect, it represented an important aspect of the role. “Dora guides the children through her world, teaching them. But she can’t be superior to them,” Bianco explains.

She believes it’s important that the stage production be truthful to the television show without mimicking it. “We don’t want to look phony,” she says.

Onstage during the entire 80-minute production, Bianco sings and dances throughout the show. “It’s a real workout,” she says.

Interactive by design, the production actively engages children by using various learning techniques. For example, Dora teaches Spanish words or phrases to the audience and then asks the kids to use the words or phrases to solve a problem. It follows the concept of the television show where Dora, who is bilingual, uses her knowledge of English and Spanish to communicate with her friends.

“Dora wants to share what she knows,” explains Bianco. “One of Dora’s friends Tico is a 4-year-old Spanish-speaking squirrel, and Dora translates for him. Sometimes she tosses the Spanish word out to the kids in the audience, and other times she asks for their help.”

The Spanish words and phrases that are tossed out during the production are very basic. “It’s Spanish that preschoolers can handle,” Bianco says. “Kids hear the words repeated over and over again in the show. The ones that are repeated the most often, they remember. It makes learning a language fun.”

Bianco admits she knows only basic Spanish. “I’m not fluent in the language. If I had had a show like ‘Dora’ when I was a child, I would know more Spanish. But I’m trying to learn more as I go along, and hopefully one day I can be as fluent as Dora.” S

“Dora the Explorer Live! – The Search for the City of Lost Toys” plays the Landmark Theater April 2-4. Tickets cost $18.50 to $38 and can be purchased by calling 262-8100 or at Ticketmaster locations or in person at the Landmark Box Office.

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