Monday, June 14, 2010

GSW9: Festival Report VIII

A final report from Tess Elliott from the toy theatre festival, on the Second Family Program (part of it covered in a previous post...)
“How the Earth Got Its Color”
Performed by Drama of Works

I sat down front to hear everything, and was next to two boys whose parent or parents were somewhere else. They were antsy, and kidding around. When the show started, the duo puppeteers came out (Gretchen Van Lente and Scott Weber) with their song about the color musicians, and while they were extremely enthusiastic the song was a little too long to join in, though the song itself was rather nice. Like most of the audience, I did not realize the words were in the program! It was an Aztec story about how the world lost its color because the Musicians who play and create it had disappeared. The Sun god did it, and one by one the Wind god goes around visiting other gods trying to find his musician friends to bring them back. Each god he visits gives him something strong to help him. I have absolutely no issue with the quality of the performances, but the smaller kids were getting tired of all the exposition so that when the Wind god thinks he can do this hard task because we believe in him, both of the boys next to me first said, “I don't” but then joined in with everyone because they were taught to play nice. The kids did not join in with the sound effects much even with the prompting, though they did enjoy flinging their colored streamers around at the end. Their musician, James Walton ,who knew what he was doing, really needed bigger tools: when he mimics the sound of a rattle, few can hear the sound of beads being shaken in a tube. Good sound effects tools are called for in children's theater, and I think they should have used their musician more in this show because kids really do respond to music being played live. I would have loved to have heard a rainstick in his tools, too, because the Wind god has rain as one of his weapons.

The show was not boring to me, or the older children, but Drama of Works needs more show and less tell (maybe more playful prodding with the audience for interaction) to keep the younger kids engaged. Kids are a hard audience!

“Something Better”
Written and performed by Michael Romanyshyn, with Mr. Romanyshyn on clarinet, Kaolyn Kinsey on tuba, Roberto Rossi on accordion, and Shaunalynn Duffy on clarinet.

This show had the kids from the start, because all the people (who performed as much as the puppets) had instruments with a rousing sound. They have a good way of using their trunk for storage, a stage, and even some instruments and stage special effects. It was great music and my two front row neighbors who were next to me again were grinning and tapping their feet. The company enters in disguise (because they are unfortunately in Arizona). Romanyshyn begins narrating about how they were refugees from countries who made them leave or die, looking for something better than death. They formed the Refugee Band, and stayed on the run from the authorities until they land in Brooklyn where one of them has lost her family home. They decide to take a stand, and call on their Fairy Godmother to help them. She is a puppet on Romanyshyn's hand and she gives them some magical potion to put into the tea of the vultures who bought the foreclosed home. The potion will shrink their big heads, and cause their hearts to grow. I hope she remembered to pay the mortgage and taxes, too.

This was the most successful of the shows I saw for kids. It was short, it was musical and noisy, funny and had a simple story (if a rather simplistic ending). The performers were not afraid to look silly, they made a lot of audience eye contact, let you know THEY were having fun, and did not talk down to the kids even on the serious subjects. The children and adults responded in kind.