Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

What can be learned from a play like MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS?

In the throes of day-to-day life, it can seem impossible to keep a handle on our values. Worse yet, daily encounters with defeatist messages and the mundane can make us question if our ideals make a difference at all. Theater can help offset this negative, narrow view of life by providing a warmer, large-scale lens.

Daughters and father together

Children particularly can benefit from this perspective. In the early stages of their development, children need a place not only to be entertained, but also to see the effects different types of behavior can have. The theater is a place where outlooks are cultivated, and shows like MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS give parents a chance to begin conversations about values with their children.

MUFARO relates what initially seems to be a simple story. Two sisters – one kind (Nyasha) and one selfish (Manyara) – are invited to meet the king as potential brides. Each takes a journey through a forest on her way to meet the king, encountering needy people along the way. Manyara treats these people cruelly, while Nyasha offers what little she has to them. It is revealed that the king was present in each of these people, and ultimately Nyasha is chosen for his bride, while Manyara becomes a servant in their household.

This plot teaches a clear lesson: be compassionate to everyone, for we reap what we sow. The show, however, is not a dull morality lesson. With its infectious percussion and playful humor, MUFARO exudes joy, reflecting the benefits of Nyasha’s openhearted outlook. It is this outlook that allows Nyasha to succeed in the forest. In the face of the unknown, Nyasha reacts with curiosity and compassion, embracing the new and looking for chances to help others.  Manyara, on the other hand, reacts with fear and treats other with hostile distrust.

A moment of tension between the sisters

Nyasha demonstrates how to approach day-to-day life with one’s values intact, but what of her sister? Is she merely a demonstration of how not to act? I would argue that Manyara, like so many people, has much more to her than is noticed at first glance. After all, she is ambitious, bold, imaginative, and – in her spirit of sibling competition and desire to get out of work – even relatable. Her refusal to be docile just because she is female, moreover, is an important lesson for growing women. If her energy was directed towards giving rather than the acquisition of power, she could be as admirable as her sister.

MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS is not only a fun show but also a great launching pad for conversations with your kids about values. Ask them what they thought of each daughter; what they liked and disliked about each of them; what they thought of the play’s message; how can they help people in their day-to-day interactions; and – most importantly – what did they enjoy about the show.

Nyasha finds the good in everything – even snakes!

DCT is committed to being a resource for parents teaching their children how to live in the world with others. This year, it has been our pleasure to offer a series of resources in our bookstore specifically focused on stories about practicing kindness. Below is a list of some of our available titles. Pick one or two of them up when you come see MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS on the DCT stage. Tickets at dct.org.

 

Ryan Diller is a DCT Guest Writer. He is the former Web Editor of 1966: A JOURNAL OF CREATIVE NONFICTION, and his writing has appeared in MULTIBRIEFS and HOT PRESS. He will begin working towards his MFA in Playwriting this coming fall at the University of Calgary. 

All photos credited to Karen Almond 

 

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_treeThe 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.

 

Song and Dance…A Celebration of Culture

Uplifting and joyful…that’s how the play was described by someone who had the benefit of seeing DCT’s National Touring Company present MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS: AN AFRICAN TALE in Colorado a couple of months ago. I recently had the pleasure of hearing the composer, S’ankh Rasa, and the choreographer, Michelle Gibson, discuss the role theyplayed in bringing this magical production to life. Talk about a celebration of culture!

Both S-ankh and Michelle spoke about Africa in great detail; from the musical instruments to the traditional dances, to the spiritual elements, and so many of the details present in the story of Mufaro’s daughters, Manyara and Nyasha. Both S-ankh and Michelle are such large personalities that just hearing them speak had an infectious rhythm, and as they spoke of Africa, they both used the term “magical” several times, and by the end I was ready to go. At the very least, I was ready to get up and dance.

Each of them has a very specific background that ties in well to the show. S-ankh has a direct West African ancestry and travels to Africa pretty often. He knows all the traditional instruments in addition to being a prolific musician in general. When director Robyn Flatt asked him if he could create music for MUFARO, he shared that he had been reading that book to his own daughters for years and was excited to do something “truly African.”

I had the best time listening to him talk about a story so familiar to him. When I, as a blue-eyed white woman see a poster for a play like MUFARO, I’m often quick to jump to thinking it’s not for me; that I can “sit this one out.” But as I heard S-ankh talk about the relationship between the sisters and also the way he worked with the actors to ingrain the traditional instruments into their characters and their bodies, I related on so many levels – both as a parent and an actress. The story of the family is true to life with just the right amount of fantasy, and hearing about the process of preparing the actors revealed their blood, sweat, and tears devotion to this project. S-ankh even told one of his actors to sleep with his instrument. I must see this show.

Then, of course after watching Michelle, I was transfixed and quite smitten. She is a preacher’s daughter from New Orleans who moved to Dallas after Hurricane Katrina, so she has her own story to tell. She shared that she connected on such a spiritual level with MUFARO. I am not a dancer, but as she spoke, it was immediately apparent that dancing runs through her veins, and has been a part of her entire life (despite her father’s plan for her to play piano). Her friend, S-ankh, is the one who asked her to choreograph the production; she read the story of MUFARO and immediately loved it.

Both of these passionate artists spoke of the tradition of storytelling, and how important it is to humankind, and specifically how important it is in the African tradition. Then they both talked at length about the story and its lessons, as each character explores their identity and learns to support each other. They also made note of the “authentic-ness” of the story, and then of course talked about their excitement to bring this story to the stage.

I grew up in the southern United States, where women sitting on the front porch with their iced tea gossiping was a very common thing. Michelle made a comparison of that to the way women in Africa build a community around the events of the day, knowing each neighbor and sharing communal experiences similar to those she experienced in church as a preacher’s daughter.

The more they talked, the more I felt like this was a community that I could be a part of, and one that I definitely want to share with my family by bringing them to this production. Michelle talked about the “bantaba” moment. She described it as the moment when everyone enters a sacred space, and everyone is embraced, and there’s no right or wrong because everyone is a welcomed participant. That is the way acting professionals like to think of the theater.

This is a show for every family, specifically families with young children, brothers and sisters. The music will be new to most of our ears, but I’m imagining a lot of little bottoms bouncing in their seats, and I think that’s okay. It’s going to be hard not to feel this show in our bones. Those drums alone are going to penetrate our spirits, all while telling this beautiful story of a family. I can’t wait to see it.

We’re inclined to go to plays where the characters look like us, regardless of the quality of the professionals attached to the production. That’s a mistake. It’s time to look past the routine and look into the heart of the story, which honestly was hard for me to do before hearing these charming, passionate artists talking about the play, and their experience in creating this play.

See S-ankh and Michelle in action! Click their names to see a video profile.

 

 

Sherry Ward is a

DCT Contributing Writer

 

 

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MUFARO’S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTERS

June 23 – July 9.

Get your tickets at dct.org .

 

 

 

 

Meet the Critters starring in JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH

Fresh fruit invariably attracts critters – insects, arachnids, or even legless worms. When that fruit is ginormous, guess what happens to those critters? They grow! In DCT’s current production of JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH however, you can’t get enough of these larger-than-life multicolored, multi-legged friends. They’re not pests, they’re best friends!

James hops aboard a giant peach with five of Roald Dahl’s most colorful characters who have without question earned their own introduction.  Drumroll please…

 

Old Green GrasshopperOld Green Grasshopper

We know all grasshoppers “sing” by rubbing their legs together, but this one can croon with the best of them, and he even plays the violin! Grasshopper serves as narrator, the voice of reason, and often keeps the other panicking bugs from losing their cool in perilous situations.

 

 

 

Ladybug

If you ever wondered where ladybugs got their name, this fashion-forward friend would show you that she’s all lady! With her hat tilted ever-so prissily, every spot in the right place, and the voice of a songbird, she keeps a careful eye on the crew as they move through their adventure. P.S. Please don’t notify songbirds about this gorgeous morsel.

 

 

 

Centipede

This guy knows how to kick up his boots, all 100 of them (actually only 48 if you ask persnickety earthworm). He’s all energy and the first to brave the outside surface of the peach, even as they bob along an unfamiliar ocean. He’s proud of his leathery feet and will try just about anything, and his voice…sounds as sweet as a peach.

 

 

Spider

This wondrous weaver is the most elegant spider you’ll ever meet, but her thread does not match her delicate demeanor. It is not only strong enough to hold this creepy-crawly group together, but is also the material that rescues the peach from circling sharks. Sounds unbelievable, I know, but you might have to see it to believe it. You’ll definitely want to shake one of her hands after the show.

 

 

Earthworm

At first you may wonder how this grump was given an exclusive seat inside the magical peach, but he (reluctantly) selflessly offers help that only he can provide when they need to summon a fleet of seagulls. This critter goes on to prove that even a blind worm with no arms or legs can be an invaluable friend.

 

 

 

There’s only one way to meet this unforgettable team, and that’s by coming to DCT’s JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH, which runs through May 27. Even if you’ve read the book, it’s time to experience these critters in the exoskeletal flesh!

For tickets, visit dct.org.

Announcing DCT’s 2017-2018 Season!

What does home mean to you?  Is it where your heart is?  Is it wherever you are with your family? Is it in the company of some really good friends?  Is it where you were born?  Is it when you feel the most at peace within yourself?  This season, we want to invite you to make yourself at home with Dallas Children’s Theater and our season stars (Caterpillar, Charlie, Frosty, María, Mowgli, Pale, Inky, Jeremy and others) who are on their very own quest to discover what home is for them.  Experiences and memories make what we call home its own unique place – and there are no two alike!  It’s often where we lay our heads or where we set our imaginations and spirits free.  For our youngest ones, the journey is filled with a variety of great and unexpected emotions. We know your entire family will enjoy spending the season with us…finding the way home. 

 

In our season opener, GOOSEBUMPS THE MUSICAL: PHANTOM OF THE AUDITORIUM, stars of the school play Brooke and Zeke investigate strange occurrences during rehearsals. What do a mask, a rose, and the phrase “Home Sweet Home” have in common? Find out in this silly, and only a little spooky, adventure that will captivate your whole family. 

 

For our teens, GHOULS AND GRAVEYARDS recounts the chilling horror classics from Edgar Allan Poe, W.W. Jacobs and our own Texas ghostlore. It’ll be a perfect night for rattling everyone’s cozy sense of home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday favorites certainly provide a sense of home. The traditions we establish for our families during these times are invaluable. At DCT, we like to make sure your experience during the holidays creates lasting memories. And with three great shows, we have something for everyone!  First, our friends from the Peanuts Gang rediscover the true reason for the season in A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMASThen, everyone’s beloved lonely frozen figure melts our hearts in FROSTY & FRIENDSFinally, the Lone Star Circus swings from the rafters in CIRQUE JOYEUX

 

I know many kids see home as a place to eat! In THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR SHOW, the little caterpillar chews his way through every bit of earth he can reach; but more than that, (Spoiler Alert) he creates a home that ultimately transforms him into all he is meant to be with his colorful Eric Carle wings. 

 

If your home is anything like mine, it’s full of screens! Most teens spend time with their faces in a screen, often as a way to connect, even when there are other humans right next to them. Linda Daugherty’s new Teen Scene show, SCREEN PLAY, will prompt valuable conversations about creating a balance between true human connections and these pervasive devices. 

 

Part of being a family is the heritage and culture that we share, and with DCT’s latest partnership with Cara Mía Theatre Co., we learn that home is more than a set of walls. YANA WANA’S LEGEND OF THE BLUEBONNET takes young María on a journey to her original home and that of her ancestors, and reminds us that everyone has a unique story to share. 

 

With our encore run of BLUE, we have fun playing, but also teaching preschoolers about acceptance and difference.  Part of making a place home is having a soft, open heart to those who are not like us. 

 

 

 

When you find children jumping from chair to couch in the living room – as children often do – we sometimes  have to remind them that the house is not a jungle. But for young Mowgli, the jungle is the home he knows. This JUNGALBOOK is not your Disney version, but rather a thrilling story of survival, coming of age, and adventure as only found in Kipling’s original stories. 

 

Finally, the swashbuckling pirate friends in HOW I BECAME A PIRATE go on an ultimate quest to protect their treasure and young Jeremy tags along.  It isn’t long before Jeremy experiences the all-too-familiar feeling of homesickness. Like him, our actors in this National Touring production will surely be glad to journey back full circle to the familiar comforts of the one and only place they call their own.

 

For information on season tickets, and about each show, please visit dct.org. We look forward to welcoming you to your home away from home…Dallas Children’s Theater.

 

 

IMAGE CREDITS:
GOOSEBUMPS THE MUSICAL: PHANTOM OF THE AUDITORIUM – Produced by special arrangement with GURMAN AGENCY, LLC, New York, NY – ™ & © Scholastic Inc. SCHOLASTIC, GOOSEBUMPS and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered marks of Scholastic Inc. Based on Goosebumps® Phantom of the Auditorium. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS – Artwork Peanuts(c) 2015 Peanuts Worldwide LLC. All Rights Reserved. All other images © 2016 Dallas Children’s Theater

Director Artie Olaisen tells a peach of a story!

 

 

 

 

Director Artie Olaisen talks about the genuine peach: storytelling!

Describe JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH from your perspective.

It’s such a well-known story! James dreamed of a world beyond​. He held on to that dream no matter how hard others tried to suppress it. And, when he least expected it, when he thought all was lost, the world came to him in a most magical and glorious way! It’s very sweet!

Give me 3 words to describe JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH.

Fantastical! ​Whimsical! Fun! 

What do you like most about JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH?

I like stories about finding the hero within.  It’s the basis for so many stories and for good reason. We need to constantly be reminded that we need not be imprisoned by our circumstances​. There is a great, big, wonderful world out there, and we need to be engaged with it!

What experience are you trying to create for audiences viewing JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH?

I hope to meet their expectations of this well-known story with performances that evoke feeling and visuals that inspire, delight & awe!​ A production full of “marvelous things!” 

What is it like being a director?

It’s rather like being a painter or a conductor.  You have a vision or idea in your head that you must get out and bring dimension to. You must communicate and create the sound of it, the color of it, the rhythm of it.  I call it “the movie in my mind.” You communicate these ideas to other artists, your collaborators, the actors and designers, and, together, you bring it to life! ​It’s very satisfying when it all comes to fruition! 

How have you seen theater change someone’s life? 

I’ve seen the power of theater to lift spirits, to connect people through shared experiences of feeling and empathy and laughter. We mustn’t forget joy and laughter! The world is in constant need of that!​ 

Why are you interested in children’s theater?

Well, basically, I’m interested in theater period​; in storytelling. It just so happens that our audiences are youth and families. I grew up in a very small house with a very small fenced-in backyard among rows of houses that all looked alike​. I was a dreamer. I dreamed of castles and ruins and jungles and deserts and exotic faraway places. I wanted to get out of that backyard. Theater provided that escape for me. The chance to be someone else and be someplace else! And, like James, though much later in life, the world and faraway destinations finally opened up to me! 

Describe a memorable moment you’ve had at DCT.

Some of my very favorite and most artistically-satisfying production experiences have been TUCK EVERLASTING, A WRINKLE IN TIME, THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW, and, most recently, THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE​.

 

JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH runs from May 5 – 27, 2017. For tickets, go to dct.org.

As a clown, this director has a special take on BLUE..

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.