Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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SNOWY DAY…A Sweet Reminder

Ezra Jack Keats’s stories bring to life the wonder of childhood…

There are a few moments in my childhood that I remember with more clarity than any others. When I could finally swing on my own without a starting push. Giggling while chasing my dad with a hose in our little backyard. Crouching over an ant hill, coaxing ants onto a stick to feed my (also recently caught) horny toad. These moments were simple, but I can remember them so vividly: the way my muscles felt while swinging, the warmth of the sun in that backyard, and the awe while watching the ants march in a line.

Now, I get to watch my own children experience those similar moments. In a world where distraction and complication rule, I love to see them make leaf angels in the yard (like they did a few days ago) or light up when they see a colorful sunset. Childhood may be fleeting, but it can also be so effortlessly magical.

Ezra Jack Keats beautifully captures these special moments in his stories. Whether it’s when Peter makes tracks in the snow with a stick or finally whistles to his dog, Willie; you can feel the wonder and excitement as Keats tells Peter’s story. Come to Dallas Children’s Theater and delight in the magic of childhood yourself through the eyes of Peter and all his friends at THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS playing through January 20. For tickets, go to dct.org.


 

 

Written by Guest Mom Blogger, Jessica Colaw.

 

 


THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER
STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS
Adapted for the stage by Jerome Hairston
Based on the books by Ezra Jack Keats
Music by Victor Zupanc

Now – Jan. 20, 2019
Ages 3 and up

Oh, the magic of childhood! Follow Peter and his friends as they enjoy the excitement of a fresh snowfall, the delight of whistling for the first time, the awe in finding a special treasure, and the feelings of a first crush. Packed with humor and fun, this production combines wonderfully innovative shadow puppetry and live action to showcase Keats’ beautiful appreciation for diversity. In fact, his characters ultimately became an inspiration for Sesame Street! An adaptation of Whistle for Willie, Goggles!, A Letter to Amy, and the groundbreaking Caldecott Winner The Snowy Day, this uplifting story collection encourages us to play and live life to the fullest each day.

Artist at Work: SNOWY DAY’S Director, Guinea Bennett-Price

Recalling her own 70s era childhood…

We sat down with Guinea Bennett-Price, the director of THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS to learn why she loves this collection of stories, and to find out just how a simple pair of goggles might get kids running around.

What is a special talent you’ve brought to the creation and telling of these stories?

I brought the funk to this production! I’m a child of the 70s, and it’s in my bones. I love and remember these stories fondly from back then, so I tried to bring my experience from that time to the feel and vibe of the piece. I’m one of the oldest people [on the creative team], so I was able to bring in the throwback experience of hide and seek…and all the dancing.

Talk about collaborating with DCT to tell these stories?

I always love working with DCT, but this was extra special because of the impact these books made on literature. It’s an opportunity for brown people to see themselves in literature. It was one of the first books I ever had with a kid like me on the front, and it’s important for young audiences to see themselves on stage. Many people could play these roles, but in the casting I tried to be intentional because [Ezra Jack Keats] chose the shade of Peter’s face for a reason, so I looked for that in my lead actor. In the media, you get the idea that lighter skin black people are acceptable and easier to be around, and I wanted the audience to see a brown boy playing and enjoying himself. I was excited to let brown kids see themselves on stage.

Describe your favorite scene in the show.

The Goggles story because it has the most movement. And I love to see Archie and Peter interacting; they’re just two friends with the freedom to run and play in their neighborhood. Kids sit in the house today on their iPhone and there’s no eye contact; and this play shows these kids having eye contact and having fun in their space in their neighborhood. Maybe it will inspire some kids to get out and play. It’s so much fun to see kids dancing and being free and getting up and having a good time.

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

There’s so much room for imagination if you’ll put yourself in the situation. When you think, “How would I feel at the first snow and getting to go out and play in it,” you get to realize that it doesn’t take things to make you happy; you can actually imagine a world. I love that this play asks kids to look at shadow puppets and imagine them as real. It gets kids thinking about how their lives can be more imaginative.

Guinea Bennett-Price is also the Co-Artistic Director of Soul Rep Theatre Company. Click here to learn more about their upcoming shows.


THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS
Adapted for the stage by Jerome Hairston
Based on the books by Ezra Jack Keats
Music by Victor Zupanc

Now thru Jan. 20, 2019
Ages 3 and up

Oh, the magic of childhood! Follow Peter and his friends as they enjoy the excitement of a fresh snowfall, the delight of whistling for the first time, the awe in finding a special treasure, and the

feelings of a first crush. Packed with humor and fun, this production combines wonderfully innovative shadow puppetry and live action to showcase Keats’ beautiful appreciation for diversity. In fact, his characters ultimately became an inspiration for Sesame Street! An adaptation of Whistle for Willie, Goggles!, A Letter to Amy, and the groundbreaking Caldecott Winner The Snowy Day, this uplifting story collection encourages us to play and live life to the fullest each day.

Get tickets to see the show here.

Make puppets…spark creativity…theater promotes imagination like nothing else!

 

DCT’s current production on stage, SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS, has a particular benefit for the young and the young at heart. This collection of four stories uses lovely shadow puppetry combined with live action to celebrate the wonders of childhood. The innocence of young Peter is front and center as he tries to preserve a snowball overnight, pen a letter to his first crush Amy, learn to whistle to call his dog Willie, and to face bullies for the first time.  All the while, Peter is surrounded by loving family and friends who are there to take this journey with him as he grapples with the newness of it all.  The imagination of the young Peters of the world should both be treasured and explored thoroughly.  For many, these moments lead to deep revelations that propel them for a lifetime.  In theater, these moments are the sparks for creativity we always talk about.

I was asked to use video to show children how to create their own shadow puppet show. Although I was happy to do it, this request made me a little nervous. You see, I have spent the last 30 plus years performing with a professional puppet company, which produces very large and highly technical theatrical productions. How could I simplify some of the processes I have learned over the years to show children and their parents how they could easily make their own shadow puppets, produce their own show and have a great time doing it together? In the end, I think I just needed to tap into my own inner child and think the way they do… simply.

This is me puppeteering during Peter Rabbit.

As a young child, I remember my Dad reciting all kinds of nursery rhymes and fairy tale stories to me.  He would often make up voices and be every character in the story.  He would also use his hands to create the characters and watch me giggle with great delight. I especially loved his Big Bad Wolf voice and mannerisms. Remembering this joyful time, I chose the simple well known nursery rhyme, Hey Diddle Diddle, to base my puppet show videos on. It’s easy to remember and not very long.

The cool thing about shadow puppets is that they can be as simple or elaborate as your imagination and ability can create. Templates of the characters and many other silhouettes can easily be found on the internet, and most of the things you need to make them into puppets can probably be found in your own home. Using the templates, the puppet characters are traced on to cardstock, easily cut out and attached to a stick.

Part 1:  Creating Your Characters 

 

To create a stage, any household lamp without the shade can be used to make the light for the shadows, and piece of butcher paper or a white sheet can be used as the shadow screen. In addition to using cutouts, I also wanted to show kids that they can use their hands to make all kinds of fun shapes and characters.

Part 2:  Making Your Stage

Putting on a show can be so much fun for kids, especially when their parents are involved as well.  It also can be a fun craft to do with a friend.

Part 3:  The Show Must Go On 

 

I hope you enjoy this fun way to spend some at-home time bringing creativity to life with your child!  As you are looking for inspiration, be sure to come see SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS at Dallas Children’s Theater running now through January 20.


 

Written and developed by Trish Long, Master Puppeteer and 

DCT’s Director of Marketing.

 

 

 


 

THE SNOWY DAY AND OTHER STORIES BY EZRA JACK KEATS
Adapted for the stage by Jerome Hairston
Based on the books by Ezra Jack Keats
Music by Victor Zupanc

 

Now thru Jan. 20, 2019
Ages 3 and up

Oh, the magic of childhood! Follow Peter and his friends as they enjoy the excitement of a fresh snowfall, the delight of whistling for the first time, the awe in finding a special treasure, and the feelings of a first crush. Packed with humor and fun, this production combines wonderfully innovative shadow puppetry and live action to showcase Keats’ beautiful appreciation for diversity. In fact, his characters ultimately became an inspiration for Sesame Street! An adaptation of Whistle for Willie, Goggles!, A Letter to Amy, and the groundbreaking Caldecott Winner The Snowy Day, this uplifting story collection encourages us to play and live life to the fullest each day.

Buy tickets now.