Dallas Children's Theater Blog

Astonishing Kids And Families With The Fun of Broadway-Like Plays and A Lot More!

Director Series: Dick Monday

One of Dallas’s favorite clowns brings Dallas Children’s Theater’s BLUE to life. Dick Monday, the director and well-known physical comedian, shares with us his key ingredients for connecting with the audience.

Give me 3 words to describe BLUE.

Blue. Blue. Blue.

What do you like most about BLUE?

I like seeing characters change the way they see the world right in front of our eyes. Inky and Pale are like everyone in the audience, afraid to say yes to a different color. The characters and story are about change. And change is scary.

What experience are you trying to create for audiences viewing BLUE?

Hopefully a colorful experience. One that starts with a lot of blue and then explores more blue, and finally is blown away by the appearance of red. It starts with engaging the audience…always engaging. Simply and clearly. And I think it has to be funny. 

What is it like being a director?

I don’t know what it’s like to be a director, but I know what I like about directing. It’s a chance to bring life and laughs and lights and sets and sounds to reality from somebody else’s words.

Describe a memorable moment you’ve had at DCT.

My favorite moments are many, but my most magical moments are performing in the lobby before the sensory-friendly shows. Those kids rock my world.

What’s your favorite children’s story? Why?

Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. It’s the first story I remember my mom reading to me, a hundred billion times.

BLUE runs from April 21 – May 7, 2017. For tickets, go to dct.org.

Director Robyn Flatt’s personal connection with TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY

Reading allows us to discover worlds filled with great, imaginative characters – like dinosaurs and tigers. Before TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY opens on March 24, we talked with director Robyn Flatt to learn more about the production.

 

 

 

 

 

Describe TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY from your perspective.

Tomás is a young child struggling to find his place in the world. He’s having a terrible time at school, partly because he is in and out of different schools so much, and he doesn’t get a chance to really know anybody.  He doesn’t speak the language that the teacher speaks so even though he tries, he’s not able to keep up. He’s mistreated because people are impatient with him and they think he’s stupid. People miss him as a person because he can’t compete on the level with the other students.

I relate that to my daughter who has dyslexia, a learning difference which I didn’t even know she had until she was in the 2nd grade. Unlike Tomás, she was very verbal and could pick up stories to tell and relate them to everybody, but when it came to reading, she just couldn’t do it. Many of her teachers were in a way a little bit mean to her, and I think that’s exactly what we see in this play. I think it’s not only someone who has a language difficulty, but anybody that is not somewhere in that “normal” range. Anybody that comes in that is different in any way is subject to being ostracized or bullied or dismissed; at least made to feel ignorant and not worthwhile.

Give me 3 words to describe TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY.

I think it’s an inspiring story because it’s real. It’s very imaginative, and it highlights some of the really beautiful parts of family that are inherent in the Latino culture.

What do you like most about TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY?

I like most that you see the world from the point of view of the child. You see his struggle, and you empathize with him and then you celebrate with him at the end.

What experience are you trying to create for audiences viewing TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY?

I want them to have a good time. I want them to enjoy it. I want them to appreciate the Latino/Hispanic culture. It’s a migrant family, and we don’t tend to value them very much. Just because someone doesn’t speak my language doesn’t mean they’re stupid. If you’re in their country, you don’t feel that way about yourself.

What is it like being a director?

I think it’s great! I think it’s fun because you get to shape a story. You get to work with all these different individuals, not only the cast members, but the designers around the show, to help bring it to life. It’s a discovery; it’s developing your curiosity and sharing that with other people. I’m very much a team player, therefore I really like hearing the ideas of the other people, and I think my job is to bring those into a unified whole. That way, the story we tell is as strong and cumulative as possible.

How have you seen theater change someone’s life?

All my life I’ve seen this. I’ve seen kids come in who were very shy and felt kind of outcast. They weren’t accepted in the sports world or they weren’t the top of their class. They weren’t on the school council, or one of the popular kids. So their school sort of tells them, “You’re not up to par, you’re not worthy.” They come to DCT discover who they are and that they can do something other people can’t. The great thing about theater is the diversity of skill, culture, and age – all of that is what makes it work. So we value all of those things, and when we put that together and that kid feels part of a team, he feels the energy of the larger picture and it propels them; it changes their life.

For instance, I had a father of this kid who completely changed because of DCT. I needed the father in the show but his wife said you can’t be in that show unless you take our child with you. So we had the kid [there at rehearsal] but we didn’t really have a part for him, and he really didn’t have much experience. I decided to make him a junior pirate, and he was there doing some of the things the pirates did. The kid was very hyper and moved around a lot, but he was in the show and actually ended up doing a pretty good job. The next year, I needed the same actor so he came and he said, “I don’t know what you did to my son, but he was struggling to make C’s and since that experience, he’s making A’s. He learned how to focus; it’s just took a simple little thing like giving him a chance and a way to express himself.

Why are you interested in children’s theater?

I love the multigenerational audience, so that leads you kind of away from doing the avant-garde and some of the other really harsh stuff. I feel like there’s a lot of energy going into theater for adults already; I don’t think there’s enough energy going into quality arts for young people. Since the schools have dropped out on that, it’s imperative that we have really strong, quality programs for young people and their whole families. That’s where we’re going to inspire the next generation, and if we’re not doing that, we’re not doing our job.

Describe a memorable moment you’ve had at DCT.

*Shows a picture of Eva Schloss and cast members from the play about her life, AND THEN THEY CAME FOR ME*

One really memorable thing: I’ve had the joy of directing [Eva’s] script now several times, and she’s come every single time and talked to the audience afterwards. She is a Holocaust survivor; she has the tattoo number on her arm. She’s one of the bravest, most optimistic, open, wonderful people I’ve ever met. The way she handles talking to kids about her experience is wonderful. After the show, she would stay there for however long people wanted to talk. We had to cut it off after a while. She would stay and answer questions one after the other. They would ask tough questions, but she always responded with beautiful answers.

What’s your favorite children’s story? Why?

The play, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD inspired the opening of the theater, but The Secret Garden is my favorite children’s story. Alice in Wonderland also has a special place in my heart because I grew up reading those stories.

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Join us for a performance of TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY, and gain a better understanding of the sacrifices some parents make to give their children a better life. This inspiring true tale of how reading and stories help us all escape is on the DCT mainstage from March 24 – April 2. For tickets and additional information about the show, visit dct.org.

Who is Tomás Rivera?

Our upcoming production of TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY by José Cruz González follows the story of a migrant family who move constantly to find work. Despite this, a young Tomás is fortunate to discover the magic of books through a caring stranger.  This bilingual play shows how young Tomás goes on to improve his English through reading, and enrich his imagination through the stories introduced to him by his new friend, the “Library Lady.”

What might be surprising is that the book by Pat Mora is based on the true story of Tomás Rivera.The story becomes even more inspiring when we see how Tomás used his love of reading to become an author and educator. He also became the first Mexican-American to serve as chancellor at the University of California.

Tomás grew to appreciate the real value of learning thanks to sparks ignited in his brain by attentive and caring people who had a passion for education and knew of its benefits for a young boy.

Once inspired, Tomás was diligent in the pursuit of his own education, but he was still taking every opportunity to help his family during busy work seasons. This meant that Tomás had to work even harder to keep up with school. He wrote about these experiences and the difficulties faced by lower-class Mexican families, and today his legacy is that of a role model and a community advocate.

The play TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY focuses on his experience as a young bilingual student, and hopefully it will inspire all students to work hard and find the value in reading.

Even though you see the struggles of moving from place to place to find work, you also see the lighter moments such as when Papa Grande tells wild imaginative stories; proof positive that those family moments really do matter.

TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY runs March 24 – April 2 and is recommended for ages 7 and up, and is bilingual. All families are welcome! Please join us. Visit dct.org for more information.

 

TOMÁS AND THE LIBRARY LADY
by Pat Mora
Adapted for the stage by
José Cruz GonzálezMarch 24 – April 2, 2017
Recommended for ages 7 and up

An inspiring true tale of how reading and stories help us all escape. This beautiful bilingual play follows the life of young Tomás and his family, who are migrant workers who move constantly to find new work picking farmers’ crops. But one summer, Tomás visits a local public library and soon discovers worlds filled with dinosaurs and tigers — and a great new friend in the “Library Lady.” While helping Tomás improve his English by reading many new and exciting stories, the librarian fosters his newfound interest in learning and teaches him the importance of a good education.

Just Imagine…

I’m not sure if my kids actually know what happened to Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a fairy tale, and for some reason, fairy tales have not been in our collection of bedtime stories. Like many of my peers, I rely on Disney to turn fairy tales into movies, and then cross our fingers that they sink in enough to stay in the realm of important tales with a moral lesson that get passed on to the next generation.

As they prepared for the production of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, puppeteers and directors Sally Fiorello and Doug Burks talked about the picture books that would absorb them for hours as children. I remember those books; I had them too. The artwork was beautiful, taking up the whole page, and the language was colorful and at times, so complex that someone would have to read them to me. After the first read, the pictures were all I needed to get through the story the next time. My memory and my imagination would do the job, and like Sally and Doug, I could spend hours lying on my belly staring into the world of the book.

My eyes were on the book, but my mind was in the world of the story.

I was fortunate to know Professor Jack Zipes during my time at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, and his studies in Comparative Literature at the University of Minnesota focused on fairy tales. He went so far as to say that fairy tales not only stretch a child’s imagination, but also develop critical thinking skills. It seems bold to say that a story could have that much of an impact. But think about it.

If you’re familiar with those Grimm brothers, you know that the stories have been softened a bit through the ages. We don’t focus on Hansel and Gretel’s father, and why he sent them into the woods by themselves to face a cannibalistic witch. We like to talk about the house made of candy and how resourceful the brother and sister are together. We don’t want to scare our children, because we know how powerful their imaginations are, and fairy tales have powerful triggers in them that can ignite their brains into…thinking.

With our production of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, Jack’s quest begins as he tries to make some money to take care of his sick mother. At this point, children are absorbed by the live picture book that Kathy Burks’ puppets create in the theater. There is magic as a beanstalk grows, there is laughter with the scene-stealing Goldie the Hen, and like any good fairy tale, there are lessons to learn. Imaginations will be firing on all cylinders. Of course you can’t have JACK AND THE BEANSTALK without a giant who poses a threat, but it’s okay. Ultimately our kids’ will be left with an unbelievable adventure, and our children’s resilience when faced with the scary simply helps better prepare them for the real world.

Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts’ JACK AND THE BEANSTALK runs March 3-26. For more information, visit dct.org, and maybe pull those picture books out of the attic. After you get immediately transported back to your own childhood, share them with another hungry imagination.

Written by Mom Blogger Sherry Ward

The Lessons in Planting Seeds and Farming for Survival…

When families decide to grow their own food, they are investing in the health and wellness of those they love the most. Parents can involve children in that process by planting seeds with them, and looking after the seeds as they grow tall and strong. Through the process of nurturing a seed and watching it grow, children experience firsthand the value of hard work and providing necessities, like food, for their family.

In Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts’ JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, Jack and his mother fall upon tough times; there is no hay to feed their cow, Milky White, and no way for her to produce milk for them to sell in the market. As a result, the mother makes the difficult decision that they must sell her. Mother knows that the money they earn from selling Milky White will provide them with enough for food and medicine for a period of time.

As parents do, Jack’s mother made a sacrifice that wasn’t easy, but it was for the benefit of her family. When Jack returns home soon after leaving to sell Milky White, his mother is skeptical about what he is returning with…and for good reason! Parents want to make sure their children are well cared for, that they have everything they could ever want or need. Unfortunately, doing so can translate to a lack of appreciation for the hard work it really takes to provide for those growing needs. We see this dichotomy come to life when Jack returns, ecstatic about the magic beans he just landed, only to have his mother display much less than a positive vibe.

Jack, like all good, honest children, doesn’t want to let his mother down, so he climbs all the way up the beanstalk in search of a fortune that will convince his mother that the beans he got in exchange for their precious cow are truly magical. Inside the Giant’s castle, Jack meets Goldie, a hen that lays golden eggs; and Esmerelda, the woman who takes care of the Giant; both of whom feel their hard work providing for and making the Giant comfortable goes unnoticed and unappreciated. Seeing the Giant speak rudely to two who are so helpful motivates Jack to save them.

If it weren’t for Jack experiencing Goldie and Esmerelda’s struggle to survive firsthand in the Giant’s castle, he may never have understood the difficult decision his mother made to sell Milky White. Like all fairy tales, Jack and his mother’s story has a happy ending—but you’ll have to see the show to find out just how he defeats the Giant.  And trust me, even if you think you’ve got this fairy tale down, you owe it to yourself to see the surprises and gentle moments that only Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts can provide.

Be sure to arrive a little early to start your own garden working with a member of the Green Thumb Team in the DCT lobby.  There will also be a Jelly Bean guessing contest you can enter!  No beans, I mean, no bones about it, the entire family will have a great time.

JACK AND THE BEANSTALK runs March 3 – 26. Tickets on sale now. Plan your visit at dct.org.

 

EAT (IT’S NOT ABOUT FOOD) IS about these people…

At DCT, we are fortunate to have community partners to work with when we are producing shows that deal with a specific medical or social issue. As a result of those relationships, we were able to interview a few experts in the area of eating disorders as we prepared for our Teen Scene production of EAT (IT’S NOT ABOUT FOOD) by Linda Daugherty. Only one of our interview participants, however, chose to become an expert in the field. For the other two interviewees, they candidly told us about their very personal run-in with the disorder. I wanted to share a few of their main points You may notice some consistencies. I know I did.

The Elisa Project right here in Dallas is a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and treatment of eating disorders. Their Executive Director, Kimberly Martinez, sat down with us to provide some insight:

KIM: It’s really through behaviors that you’re able to identify eating disorders; just being aware of them, and what they look like. It is something that culminates over time from depression, negative body image, low self-esteem, other self-harming behaviors…but parents don’t usually see it coming.

Bradley Evans is a high school student who is now keenly aware of how close he was to a serious medical crisis due to his eating disorder. He shared some details of his experience with us:

BRADLEY: My dad was military, so we moved around a lot. I was probably about twelve or thirteen-years-old when I started getting into trouble with eating disorders. I was under a lot of stress. I think we had just moved and I was having a hard time making friends. I didn’t feel like I could really talk to anybody. I started to feel alone, and I guess I just started eating less and didn’t take care of myself so much, and eventually it got so bad I was going four or five days without food or water. I was just so weak I could barely even stand.

I guess I didn’t know anything was wrong until my parents started noticing. They tried to help me get back on track, but I couldn’t figure out how to stop the behaviors.

Steven Dunn is a successful lawyer and a good father. His daughter Morgan was a good student with good friends and a selfless spirit. This past October, Morgan lost her life after a seven-year battle with an eating disorder. He shared his story with us:

STEVEN: Her very good friends, for lack of a better word, ratted her out to us. They told us that she was beginning to go to the restrooms after they ate lunch at school; she was a little bit distracted. She came home, and on the surface, she was pretty much the way she was, but her friends told us these issues are going on.

Eating disorders is this insidious monster that comes into your household. It takes the person, and it sinks its claws into them, and it lies to them. It isolates them from their friends, their school, their loved ones, and keeps them in the dark. It isolates them. For us, that was the best way for us to identify this and try to get it, not only out of her life, but out of our lives and all of her friends’ lives as well, because it has this way of expanding and pulling everyone else in. It only has one goal, and its goal is to kill.

KIM: Eating disorders are life-threatening. Your mind becomes malnourished, and you’re not able to function the way that you normally would. From heart attacks and strokes, to not being able to jump and run and have friends, eating disorders really take over your life. And it’s not just the young people who may suffer from the illness, but it’s their entire family who suffers from an eating disorder.

Those are hard words to hear, especially for parents of young kids. Of course, the more we learn the better off our children and our families will be. Bradley offers some practical advice for those suffering and for those who want to help, and our experts offer some hope.

BRADLEY: If you’re struggling, it’s so important to reach out to someone and let them know that you feel trapped and out of control. If somebody you know is closing themselves off to relationships, reach out to them and say, “Are you okay? Is everything really okay?”

STEVEN: There is hope. I urge people to get to it in time, to pay attention. You can recover, but you’ve got to put your life into it, because if not, you may lose.

KIM: There is hope, of course, yes. Recovery is so, so possible. It’s something that you totally could recover from, so that’s the good news. Many people with eating disorders feel a sense of guilt and shame about having an eating disorder. As long as you keep it secret, you are gonna be sick. The minute you tell somebody, you’re on the road to recovery.

EAT (IT’S NOT ABOUT FOOD), a play by resident playwright, Linda Daugherty, ran at Dallas Children’s Theater from February 10-19, and is part of a series of plays focused on issues teens and those who love them face.

 

 

 

Two Directors are pulling the strings on JACK AND THE BEANSTALK

It takes two to make a thing go right, and it takes two directors to make sure puppeteers disappear out of sight and completely into the background in Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts’ production of JACK AND THE BEANSTALK. We chatted with Doug Burks and Sally Fiorello, the show’s co-directors, about this rendition of the fairy tale and more before opening. Read on…

Describe JACK AND THE BEANSTALK from your perspective.

Doug Burks: It was one of the first fairy tales I remember as a child. There was a picture book that I had as a child, and then I remember the iconic Mickey Mouse film.

Sally Fiorello: That’s what I was going to say! Mickey Mouse and the Beanstalk, which is a beautiful, beautiful animated feature that I loved. The Giant scared me as a kid, and in that cartoon, he was certainly a little bit scary. I think I really believed there were giants when I was a kid.

Describe JACK AND THE BEANSTALK using three words.

SF: Magic, fantasy, adventure.

What do you like most about JACK AND THE BEANSTALK?

SF: I love the growing of the beanstalk. And the interaction with Goldie the Hen and all the characters.

DB: Yeah, Goldie is kind of our scene stealer.

SF: I also like the addition of the Man in the Moon to the typical Jack and the Beanstalk story.

DB: That idea was inspired by the old Sue Hastings script that we have, because that’s the way they did it. They had that character in it.

SF: And we WAY expanded on it. He’s got a song and a whole scene with some starlettes. If there had been more time when we first dreamed it up, his storyline could have been expanded even more.

What kind of experience are you trying to create for audiences?

SF: I think it’s an adventure story first. Jack is certainly setting out on a journey that is an adventure – climbing a beanstalk way up into the sky – and then he sees the Giant. I think we are taking the audience on a sort of fantastical trip that they can’t take themselves on in their everyday lives. When I was a kid, fairy tales figured prominently into my entertainment, whether it was my mother reading me a story or seeing Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, now people sort of forget about them.

DB: So the experience we’re trying to create for our audience is a classic fairy tale, the way they used to be.

What is it like being a director?

DB: It’s kind of a daunting task, having to be responsible for every single element. But at the same time, it’s incredibly rewarding.

SF: There are certainly different problems with directing a puppet show versus one of our shows where live actors are front and center. Knowing what puppets can do as opposed to what people can do, and what the style of puppetry can accomplish is different; there’s a lot of different variables.

DB: What’s different about the way we work, too, is that oftentimes, our company will voice a character and puppeteer that same character. But we also have to hire other actors to voice certain characters. It’s just a different set of skills that puppeteers/actors have to incorporate.

How have you seen theater change someone’s life?

DB: Well, it changed my life! As a child, I often felt very introverted and shy, and it wasn’t until I got into theater and performing that I overcame a lot of that. It taught me to express myself.

SF: It absolutely taught me to express myself, and aided in my education. It opened my mind up to wanting to know more, because it gave to me in a way that was dramatic or exciting or compelling, as opposed to a teacher saying “na na na.” It was like a world that was suddenly in front of me, and I wanted to be a part of that.

Why are you interested in children’s theater?

DB: The arts and theater in education can be very, very valuable, whether you choose a career in the arts or not. We must continue to build, not only the future artists, but the future audiences as well.

SF: As with all of the arts, theater makes a complete person. I believe when the arts are missing, we lose empathy. We lose what being a human being is all about. We become something else, and I worry about the kind of human that will exist if the arts are just kind of pushed by the wayside.

Describe a memorable moment you’ve had at DCT.

DB: Well they all involved the audiences, their responses. An audience full of children is often so much more honest than an audience full of adults. The feedback is so immediate; they’re less likely to censor themselves.

SF: If they think something’s funny…

DB: They’re going to laugh. If they don’t like something and get bored, they’re going to start talking. You know when they’re not paying attention.

SF: There have been so many times when people, when kids especially, have been so enamored with what they’re seeing and that feels really, really good.

DB: I first was an actor at DCT in 1989, so I’ve also worked with a lot of children that have come through our productions. That’s kind of a great thing to work with an actor as a child, and there are many of them now that are grown that I get to work with again as adults. Like Katy Tye.

SF: When he was here did you work with Montgomery Sutton?

DB: Yeah, Montgomery Sutton, there’s just too many to even remember. These kids that I worked with when they were seven-, eight-, nine years old, and then I get to work with them again as adults.

What’s your favorite children’s story and why?

DB: Winnie the Pooh. I could really relate to those characters; sometimes I could relate to Eyeore, sometimes to Pooh. I can just really relate to that story of how our childhood toys and friends will always kind of stay with us.

SF: That’s beautiful, Doug. It probably would go back to certain movies like Bambi, for me. I liked Bambi so much because I am such an animal lover. One more recent movie that is also a play that I love is Babe, the Sheep Pig. I think that story shows the nobleness of animals, and why we should respect them. It’s so humorous and so loving. It’s full of wonderful life lessons.

Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts’ JACK AND THE BEANSTALK runs March 3-26, 2017. With shows during Spring Break and on the weekends, there’s plenty of time for you to climb up the beanstalk with Jack. Visit dct.org for more information about the tickets and show times.

JUNIE B. JONES Provides Bedding for Friends in Need through S. M. Wright Foundation program

In the spirit of making all friends comfortable, Dallas Children’s Theater (DCT) is hosting a collection to support S.M. Wright Foundation’s Beds for Kids program during the six-week run of JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK. DCT is asking its young patrons to perform an act of kindness for other children in our community, who need resources that make it possible to get a good night’s rest. Families are asked to bring a NEW blanket, pillow, or set of twin-sized bed sheets for young neighbors in the Beds for Kids program at the S.M. Wright Foundation.

In early 2010, the Foundation established the Beds for Kids program in an effort to reduce the number of North Texas children not experiencing quality sleep. Since its inception, the Beds for Kids program has distributed more than 6,360 bed sets to underprivileged kids. However, demand far exceeds the Foundation’s ability to supply resources.  Sadly, there is a waiting list of more than 4,200 kids.

“We are blessed and humbled by Dallas Children’s Theater’s generosity in naming our Foundation as their beneficiary. It sends a strong message not only to children, but to everyone; and it is our pleasure to be a part of such a generous outpouring and a wonderful production,” said Rev. S.M. Wright II, President & CEO of the S.M. Wright Foundation.

The S.M. Wright Foundation was founded in 1998 to deliver social services to those in need. For nearly 17 years, the organization, based in South Dallas, has provided support and stability to underprivileged children and less fortunate families through hunger relief, economic empowerment, and assistance in the areas of education, health and social services. The Foundation is unique among social services because it carries out its mission on a daily basis in the community – providing  hope, encouragement and assistance to families in need.

In appreciation of our patrons’ generosity, every family that donates an item will receive one ticket per to DCT’s summer show, MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS: AN AFRICAN TALE. Limit two (2) per family.

To learn more about the S. M. Wright Foundation and the Beds for Kids Program, visit smwrightfoundation.org. JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK runs now thru February 26. Visit the DCT website to purchase tickets.

For sanitary reasons, only donations of new items will be accepted.


JUNIE
B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK

by Allison Gregory

based on the books Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook and Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren by Barbara Park

January 20 – February 26, 2017

Recommended for ages 5 and up

The Case for Junie B.

KA_070

My husband teaches elementary school theater – kindergarten through fourth grade. I’ve been privy to some “behind the scenes” conversations about kids, and the one thing I’ve learned from him is that they are ALL so very different. As DCT prepares for JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK, I think about all the kindergarteners I know, and she is just like them – very different.

Kindergarten is like the adolescence of childhood in that it’s a big transition from being a baby to being a kid. Your brain is in overdrive as it takes in information from every direction, and Junie B. is smart and confident, and eager to use her new information as soon as possible. She doesn’t always think things through before she acts on them, but that’s part of being a kid that just finished being a preschooler. She’s a work in progress.

In oKA_053ur JUNIE B. play, Junie B. has her favorite pair of black fuzzy mittens taken, and her first reaction is not ideal. How nice have you been when you find your phone or favorite coffee mug suddenly gone? It hurts, and it makes you mad, and kids don’t always know what to do with anger; especially a kid like Junie B. who marches to her own beat. She summons enough big-girl responsibility to check the lost and found, and when she doesn’t find her mittens, she decides to “find” a cool, flashy pen that someone else lost. She sees it as poetic justice. Here begins the journey of the lesson she must learn.

One of the things I hear when my husband and his colleagues are talking about kids is, “She’s got a MOUTH on her!” This could mean many things. Some of the kids just outright cuss like sailors, but more often than not it’s about back-talk. I’ll be frank, Junie B. is sassy sometimes, and her mouth often works faster than her brain. This is when we have to be reminded of how young children KA_116learn vocabulary. I go into a kindergarten classroom and everything is labeled. Chair.Table.Desk.Door. You get the idea.

The elements that aren’t labeled are feelings, concepts, ideas; the things that are inside that we can’t see. These things are more difficult to communicate, especially when our vocabulary is new and limited. This is when an eager, outspoken kid like Junie B. reaches for the newly-acquired vocabulary words she knows. They don’t always fit, but again, Junie B. is a bit of a square peg.

The cool thing about Junie B. is she doesn’t mind a bit. She’s fine with being different, and that’s one of the best lessons we can learn from her. She surrounds herself with colorful, multi-faceted friends who are as different as she is, and they remind us how balanced our Junie B. really is. If we could all have non-judging friends like Junie B.!KA_099

She has a lot to learn, as all five and six-year-olds do, and our kids will have so much fun watching her make mistakes. My kids will sneak a peek at me while they’re laughing to see if I just noticed what she said and if it’s okay that they laughed. I’ll smile at them. Then we’ll have a great conversation about how she fixed her mistakes, and how we have to think before we act and even think before we speak, because words and attitudes are important. I think Junie B. can teach this to our kids much more powerfully than a lecture on behavior.

JUNIE B. JONEjuniebS IS NOT A CROOK. I believe that. I believe she isn’t a crook. She’s a young kid on the road to discovering the recipe that is her life and who she is.  As parents and onlookers, let’s remember to do what we can to give them the freedom they need to ultimately get it right.  Oh yeah, JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK is also the name of our show, running January 20 – February 26. You’ll have to see the show to find out what happens with the mittens and the pen. Get your tickets today at dct.org.

Written by Sherry Ward.

A Great Resolution for 2017:  Helping Children Learn to Get Along

shery-and-sonsA holiday break is always a good time to do some reading, so I got some books from the DCT Store to read with my boys. As parents, we can always grow from seeing things from a child’s perspective, especially when it is they that we ultimately want to have benefit from whatever life lesson we are trying to advance.  I was surprised and thrilled by how several of the books available for sale in the DCT Store helped me communicate with my child about a recent situation.

My eleven-year-old red-head had a really hard time last year with a boy who insisted on calling him “Ginger.” My red-head has autism, so he wasn’t totally equipped for how to deal with that, and it turns out they wouldn’t let me just come to school with him every day to make sure no one bothered him.enemy-pie

We tried to refrain from using the word “bully” like it was a bad word, and as it turns out, that fifth-grader that was giving my son such a hard time was having his own issues of acceptance and was quite withdrawn when he wasn’t with his small circle of friends. It’s hard to communicate all the complexities of acceptance to any kid, but these books helped me, and I think there were some golden nuggets that permeated as we read together.

we-all-sing

Of course they loved the book Enemy Pie, because it was all about a boy who became friends with a new neighbor (his one and only enemy) by spending the whole day with him, culminating in a feast of “enemy pie.” We then read We All Sing with the Same Voice. It explored all of our differences, whether cultural, regarding the makeup of our family, or the color or our hair and skin, with the resounding message that we all sing with the same voice. Both of these books showed that we are so much more than our differences, and that (just like my son and his “enemy,”) there are always more things in common.

DCT has two shows this season that bring to life in a child-friendly way how we can best deal with differences. JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK is about Junie B.’s journey of conscience when she tries to right a wrong by taking something that didn’t belong to her. She thought this would make her feel maxresdefaultbetter after having a pair of her favorite mittens go missing.  You’ll have to make plans to see the play or pick up the book to see how the story ends.

As I reflect on Junie B.’s style and her own circle of friends as revealed in both the book and the play, I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the reasons she is so misunderstood is because she dares to be different in the search for her own identity.  Junie B. likes to thoroughly exercise her newly-acquired vocabulary, which sometimes makes adults and friends question her use of proper English. Like we all do with a new pair of shoes, seems we all ought to be willing to just let her give these new words a trial run however strange they may sound.  each-kindnessAs the author says, “let’s remember…she’s five.”  By the same token, we could be a little more patient with the differences of others in general.  Take a moment to offer the benefit of the doubt with regard to why something was said or done before we react. Even at her young age, what I love about Junie is her melting pot of friends. I think Junie B. could teach us all a lesson in acceptance when you look at her entourage of friends who are all very different from her.  I am impressed by how she celebrates what is unique in each of these friends without ever belittling them. I think it makes her a better person, too.

the_hundred_dressesThe other books we (well, that I read) were a little more intense. Each Kindness and The Hundred Dresses were both about girls who received outright ridicule at school for the way they dressed. Their clothes were old, used or out of season, and they were not accepted by their classmates. In the end, there was an important lesson, which I don’t want to fully give away.  Let’s just say they both reminded me of the importance of not underestimating peers.  One never knows what someone else’s life circumstances might be. The key message is that you don’t always get a second chance to be kind to someone. As a teacher wisely shared, the drop of a pebble of kindness ripples into the world infinitely.

It’s never too early to learn lessons of acceptance and difference. This spring, DCT brings the play BLUE to the preschool audience.  The play has the simple lesson of accepting something new and different and finding the beauty in it. Pale Blue and Inky Blue have to deal with the unexpected entrance of Red Sock! Of course this is a fun, simple way to teach one of the most important lessons of diversity and acceptance to the smallest audience members.blue

From the shows that go on our stages to the resources that are provided to support families, DCT wants to do its part to help parents and children value the unique and precious differences in each other. JUNIE B. JONES IS NOT A CROOK by Allison Gregory runs from January 20 – February 26, 2017 for ages 5 and up. BLUE by Annie Cusick Wood runs from April 21 – May 7, 2017 for toddlers and their families.

I believe we will extend an invitation to my son’s “enemy number one” to join us at the theater and spend the day with us. I can’t think of a better way for both of them to get a new best friend. I hope you’ll join us.

Written by Sherry Ward.

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The following is a list of books that are available for sale in the DCT Store.  These support materials are provided as a service to our patrons and as part of our commitment to promoting kindness.

Books about living in the world with others.

each-kindnessEach Kindness
By Jacqueline Woodson

A young girl learns the cost of bullying when she loses the opportunity to make a new friend.

 

the_giving_tree The Giving Tree
By Shel Silverstein

A tale of a tree that gives everything for a boy, and the spiritual peace brought to both through its generosity.

 

filled-a-bucketHave You Filled a Bucket Today?
By Carol McCloud

A book encouraging positive behavior via the metaphor of filling buckets.

the_hundred_dressesThe Hundred Dresses

By Eleanor Estes

A young girl is bullied because of her clothes.  Her classmates learn the repercussions of their bullying when she suddenly switches schools.

 

invisible-stringThe Invisible String

By Patrice Karst

A mother’s lesson to her children about the invisible string of love connecting us all together.

 

missingpiece-big-oThe Missing Piece
Meets the Big O

By Shel Silverstein

A simple story about a character who wants to become something different.

 

one-loveOne Love

By Cedella Marley

Based on the Bob Marley classic, a young girl brings her community together to create a better neighborhood.

peaceThe Peace Book

By Todd Parr

A book about the importance of tolerance, designed for children just learning to read.

 

enemy-pieEnemy Pie

By Derek Munson

How do you get rid of your worst enemy?  Become best friends!  An endearing story about a boy learning to like someone once he gets to know him.

 

book_thethreequestionsThe Three Questions

By Jon J. Muth

A boy is resolved to be the best person he can be, but is not sure how.

 

smileThe Smile That Went Around the World

By Patrice Karst

A fun story about how one act of kindness can spark a chain reaction of smiles.

 

way-i-feelThe Way I Feel

By Janan Cain

A fun, colorful book of expressive illustrations that help developing kids describe their emotions.