Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

Artist At Work: A Puppeteer’s Dreams of Long John Silver

Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts Adds A New Dimension to the Classic Story

When the collaborating companies first started reimagining the classic tale of Treasure Island, each company presented many ideas about how their artistic discipline could best help in telling the most dramatic, compelling and entertaining story. We sat down with Sally Fiorello, Master Puppeteer with Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts and puppeteer and ensemble cast member of TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined!, to learn how puppetry helped shape this production.

The giant Long John Silver puppet built by Fiorello and puppetry constructor Beck Schlabach enters Jim Hawkins’ dreams.

How is puppetry being used to tell this story?
After workshopping several ideas and multiple years of writing and rewriting the script, we decided that creating and utilizing nontraditional puppetry would be the perfect way to dramatize both nightmare and fantasy sequences that occur in the play. As a result, like the young character Jim Hawkins, audiences will be astounded and shaken by the unexpected, larger-than-life nightmare of the one-legged pirate named Long John Silver. They will experience the magic and beauty of a night sky full of constellations that come to life in a way never before seen on stage. And finally, through the use of animatronics, they will enjoy the antics of Long John’s iconic parrot.

Please describe the puppet in these pictures and what went into making it.
The head that you see in the picture, along with its hands that Doug and I are holding, are actually the beginning stages of the giant Long John Silver puppet that comes to life in Jim Hawkins’ nightmare and serves as a foreboding of the infamous pirate’s true character. As with all creations for the stage and screen, puppets are first designed on paper or a computer. Since this puppet is more than twice the size of a normal human and the head is made out of reticulated foam (outdoor upholstery foam), a small model had to be made in order to devise a pattern for creating the proper shape. It’s always better to create something in miniature at first so that you don’t waste time and expensive materials trying to figure things out in full size. Also, you might find that you want to make some changes to the final design before it’s too late. Once the smaller pattern shapes are made, they are then enlarged and laid on the foam for cutting. The cut pieces of foam are then glued together with contact cement creating the basic shape you see here. The eyes are fashioned from hollow plastic balls. Other structures are created using pool noodles, which are a great product to work with and very light weight. Weight is extremely important when you’re building a 15-foot-tall puppet that has to be puppeteered easily about the stage on long poles. With the addition of more sculpted facial features and paint, the puppet begins to come to life. Once the hair, beard, gnarly teeth and ghostly body are added, this Long John really takes on the scary visage we aimed to create for Jim’s nightmare. We certainly hope the audience thinks so as well and enjoys him as much as we do.

What is most exciting to you about this project?
The most exciting part of this project was working together with other artists of different disciplines to create something special and unique, something that no one had ever seen before. From the beginning, there were no bad ideas. We were only limited by the boundaries of our own imaginations. We had time to explore different ideas and concepts, to figure out how we could best come together and make the most dramatic contribution to the telling of the story. It is not often that theatrical artists have this opportunity in the creation process. The ongoing discussions and workshops truly gave us time and inspiration to think outside of the box and create some magical theater!

Why do you think families will enjoy this production?
I know audiences will enjoy this production because it has everything in it that one could want from their entertainment. It has heroes and villains; pirates, swordplay and treasure; comedy, drama and adventure on the high seas – all of the things that make for a great theater experience. But even greater, this production has been completely reimagined to tell the story from more than one character’s perspective. We all find out things we never knew about these iconic figures. The story unfolds on a beautiful set and throughout the theater. The audience is often right in the middle of the action with shipboard acrobatics taking everyone’s breath away and unexpected puppetry bringing magical and unforgettable images to life. I know that one could say I’m biased, but I believe that TREASURE ISLAND REIMAGINED is a fantastic show for everyone!

Can you guess the names of all of the constellations in this photo? If not, you should come see the show!

 


 

TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined!
Adapted for the stage by Katy Tye, Jeffrey Colangelo,
and Robyn Flatt
Based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson

Now thru Oct. 21, 2018
Ages 7 and up

Friendship, betrayal, and adventure are front and center in this bold world premiere! And Jim Hawkins, Ben Gunn, and Long John Silver will do just about anything to be the first to claim the buried treasure. From the moment you enter the theater, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the action. Step into a world of dramatic sword fights, thrilling acrobatics, and magical shadow puppetry as Dallas Children’s Theater, Prism Movement Theatre, Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts, and Lone Star Circus® come together to present a wildly original version of this iconic tale. Grab your costume and come aboard our ship. Your help is needed to decide who gets to take home the gold!

Show Dates:

Saturday, October 13, 4:30 PM
Sunday, October 14, 1:30 PM
Sunday, October 14, 4:30 PM
Saturday, October 20, 1:30 PM
Sunday, October 21, 1:30 PM
Sunday, October 21, 4:30 PM

 

The Original Navigation App?

You don’t need a smartphone to access this tool…

Sextant

“Are we there yet?” has been replaced with “check your phone, mom.” My kids will be the first to tell you that we’ve all become overly-reliant on a certain navigation app, plotting out the shortest route to any and all destinations while noting the exact arrival time down to the minute. A far cry from the navigation tools used long ago.

Sailors of the past, including pirates, looked to the stars to traverse vast oceans. Instead of simply plugging an address in to an app, the sailors had to have knowledge of different constellations in the night sky, and how they changed position throughout the year because of the earth’s rotation. They then had to use those constellations to calculate their position utilizing tools such as sextants and almanacs.

Orion

Did you know Orion, the constellation Long John Silver references in the play, can be seen in the sky here in Texas (mainly during winter)? Perhaps it’s time to explore a navigation tool that doesn’t require a smartphone: the constellations right above us.

In DCT’s version of TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined!, there are great lessons about stars and constellations. They are brought to life in the production in a way children and adults will remember. Make plans to learn more about Orion, Taurus the Bull and others by taking your family to see TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined! running now through October 21. For tickets, go to dct.org.

If you want to know more about what’s happening in the night sky yourself, check out these local sites:


 

 

Written by Guest Mom Blogger, Jessica Colaw.

 

 


More Fun To Do…

1. Did you know that Dallas Children’s Theater produces a study guide for every production? Additional activities can help your child bring their live theater experience full circle. (Button) Download the study guide for TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined! and be off on your adventure! View study guides.

2. Create your own buried treasure! Just imagine digging it up years later as a family. Click here to learn how.

 

 

 

 

Main story photos sourced from britannica[dot]com, wikipedia[dot]org, mykidsadventures[dot]com/time-capsule/, and by Karen Almond.

Artists At Work: Movement Designers Make Finding Gold Extraordinary

Spotlight on TREASURE ISLAND’s Katy Tye and Jeff Colangelo

Movement is being used in a variety of ways to help tell the story of Treasure Island in this reimagined production, so we sat down with Katy Tye (KT) and Jeff Colangelo (JC), founders of Prism Movement Theatre, to understand how physical theater was incorporated into the presentation.

How are movement and combat techniques being used to tell this story?

KT: All acting is movement in my opinion, or should be. However, Treasure Island is a special case because it is a nonstop adventure involving pirates at sea. The pirates in this production all learned or provided different skills to truly embody the work of sailors — like climbing ropes — which adds to the characters and the environment of the piece. On top of the sailing skills, our pirates had to fight, cause… they’re pirates! Jeff choreographed some great fights. Sword fighting, circus work, puppetry all coming together to tell a beautiful story.

JC: Almost every 10 minutes, there’s a new fight scene or circus section or rope climbing or puppets being used to tell this amazing story. And the best part is that almost ALL of it is in the book, [and now it’s] brought to life onstage. If you really want to see a Treasure Island that captures the heart of the book and the true harrowing adventure that Jim goes on, this is the show for you.

Jeff Colangelo, right, teaches sword fighting techniques to Sally Fiorello at a TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined! rehearsal.

Robyn Flatt, director of TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined! and founder of DCT, said that it’s been exciting to realize the dream of a show three years in the making. But, she says it took compromise to get all the components to find their way on stage. “This show is very visual, physical theater and it needs combat,” Flatt said. “It’s been terrific fun working with Katy and Jeff to tell the story of Jim [Hawkins] and Ben Gunn through physical movement. Katy of course grew up here in the Academy, and I really admire the work she’s now doing with Jeff through their company, Prism Movement Theatre. Jeff staged all the fights in the show, and Katy and I gave feedback. Jeff has been a team player, and been open to feedback. We created a playground and are lucky to have found balance.”

Jeff Colangelo, left, and Katy Tye, right, who plays Jim Hawkins, during a fight scene.

Describe your favorite scene involving either movement or combat, and what went into making it.

KT: My favorite scene involving combat is my fight between Israel and Jim. Jeff choreographed it almost exactly as Robert Lewis Stevenson described it, and it is intense. A pirate is about to stab a boy to death until the boat throws them off balance, and the kid is able to climb up a rope. Once there, Israel throws a knife into Jim’s shoulder climbing up to kill him, and then Jim shoots and kills him. It’s one of the most intense fights I’ve done, and it’s while playing a 10-year-old boy in a kid’s show! Jeff and I are huge fans of magic thanks to our friend and collaborator Trigg Watson, and in our fight, we get to do a little magic together which is so fun!

Aaron Jay Green, left, who plays Ben Gunn, hears the tale of Orion from Marcus Stimac, right, who plays Long John Silver.

JC: My favorite scene is actually the constellations scene, where Long John tells a young Ben Gunn the story of Orion and the scorpion and those constellations come to life through handmade puppets. There’s just so many beautiful things going on in that scene, from Sally’s puppetry to the construction of the constellation puppets to the acting. Even the lighting and music make that moment so beautiful and impactful for me. The scene itself is so wonderfully multilayered with Long John, a famous, almost mythical pirate of legend, telling a story about a mythical figure that inspired him as a boy. And while [the audience is] being told this beautiful story, Long John is actually using this tale to manipulate those around him to get what he wants. It’s truly an effective and awe-inspiring piece of storytelling from the whole team.

Jeff Colangelo, left, sword fights with Karl Schaeffer during a performance.

What is most exciting to you about this project? Why do you think families will enjoy this production?

KT: The most exciting thing about this project to me is how much interdisciplinary work there is in the piece and yet none of them distract from each other. The script compliments the movement, which compliments the puppetry, etc. Families will enjoy it no matter what; there is truly never a dull moment.

Long John, Jim Hawkins and the pirates are reminded that “dead men tell no tales.”

JC: I think this project is so exciting because it offers a take on the Treasure Island story that doesn’t shy away from the danger that these pirates brought with them on their adventures. At every moment, these people are trying to outwit each other and betray each other to get rich quick, and I think it’s important that this production doesn’t pull any punches in telling that story. By presenting an adventure with truly harrowing danger, it makes the entire adventure of Treasure Island all the more exciting to watch, and it makes adults and kids alike appreciate the happy and beautiful moments of the play even more. In the end, how can you truly appreciate the good things life has to bring if you’re never presented with some of the scary stuff as well?

JC: I think families will absolutely LOVE this production. It brings to life the story of a classic kid’s book in a way that is fun, engaging and extremely exciting. There’s absolutely nothing to be bored by during this play, if the actors aren’t fighting, five minutes later they’ll be doing puppetry; if they aren’t doing puppetry, they’ll be doing circus tricks and so on. This is definitely an exciting adventure that young and old pirates at heart will have a great time at.

 


 

TREASURE ISLAND Reimagined!
Adapted for the stage by Katy Tye, Jeffrey Colangelo,
and Robyn Flatt
Based on the book by Robert Louis Stevenson

Now thru Oct. 21, 2018
Ages 7 and up

Friendship, betrayal, and adventure are front and center in this bold world premiere! And Jim Hawkins, Ben Gunn, and Long John Silver will do just about anything to be the first to claim the buried treasure. From the moment you enter the theater, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the action. Step into a world of dramatic sword fights, thrilling acrobatics, and magical shadow puppetry as Dallas Children’s Theater, Prism Movement Theatre, Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts, and Lone Star Circus® come together to present a wildly original version of this iconic tale. Grab your costume and come aboard our ship. Your help is needed to decide who gets to take home the gold!

Show Dates:

Saturday, October 6, 1:30 PM
Sunday, October 7, 1:30 PM
Sunday, October 7, 4:30 PM
Saturday, October 13, 4:30 PM
Sunday, October 14, 1:30 PM
Sunday, October 14, 4:30 PM
Saturday, October 20, 1:30 PM
Sunday, October 21, 1:30 PM
Sunday, October 21, 4:30 PM

 

TITLE SPONSORS

PHOTO CREDITS: Karen Almond and DCT Staff