Dallas Children's Theater Blog

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

Burks Children Bond Through Years of Working Together

D and B 1

In the classic fairy tale, HANSEL AND GRETEL, brother and sister must work together to escape traps set by the evil Ginger Witch. Audiences might be surprised to learn that some of the puppeteers in the Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts troupe are family members—including Ms. Burks’ children! We caught up with Master Puppeteers Becky Burks Keenan (BBK) and Doug Burks (DB) to learn about growing up alongside and working with a creative sibling.

How would you describe your brother/sister?

BBK: Doug is a kind-hearted and loving person. His best quality is his dependability.

DB: My sister is kind, talented, funny, statuesque, and beautiful. She has the ability to see the good in everyone.

What’s one of the most notable memories you made together while growing up?

DB: My most vivid memories are of the two of us acting out our favorite movies and TV shows.

BBK: My best friend, Trici, would spend the night on weekends and we would D and B 2dress up, Doug included, and create all kinds of characters. Or if we weren’t acting something out we would watch the Carol Burnett Show or Sonny and Cher and dream of being a part of their casts! One time Doug almost set his room on fire playing the role of Barnabas Collins in Dark Shadows. He was holding up a candle very dramatically next to his mummy skulls and fishing nets hung up on his wall. We put it out with a can of Dr. Pepper. Needless to say Mom and Dad weren’t home.

Who got into puppeteering first?

BBK: We took lessons together and have always enjoyed working with one another.

DB: Having both been involved in theater and dance, we both got into puppetry at the same time, as a natural extension of our love of the arts.

Has there ever been a time when you had to problem solve to get out of a sticky situation?

DB: The most difficult situation we worked together to solve occurred after we became adults, when we had to care for our ailing father in the last months of his life.

BBK: A few months before our dad passed away, we were able to move him D and B 5from his house at Lake Whitney and bring him closer to us. We were able to spend quality time with him before he died. I’m so grateful that I had my brother to help me through that difficult time.

What do you like best about working with your brother/sister so often?

DB: The best part of working with my sister, as well as the other members of my family, is that after so many years, we have developed a sort of artistic shorthand. We almost know what the other person is going to do onstage before they do it.

BBK: I like using our creative genes together to provide quality entertainment for the Metroplex. Doug’s kind heart and professionalism makes for an easy and fun work environment. I’m thankful to do this on a regular basis.D and B 4 D and B 3










How has having a brother/sister made you a better person?

BBK: It has helped me be a more giving, caring and loving person. Sharing D and B 6my life with such a great brother taught me the wonderful gift of humility, and most importantly to not judge others.

DB: Having a sister has helped me to learn about sharing, compromise and respecting the feelings of others. It also helps that she makes me laugh a lot!

Brothers and sisters are sometimes the best partners to have when getting into and out of trouble.

275x275_hanselHANSEL AND GRETEL plays for only one more weekend(April 2 and 3). Be sure you don’t miss this amazing show and this wonderful family duo. Tickets available at dct.org or call the Box Office at 214-740-0051 for more information.

Kathy Burks’ Senior Designer Gives Hansel and Gretel Puppets Brand New Heads

IMG_3193This year, the senior designer and technical director of Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts along with other team members spent 120 hours designing and sculpting new heads for the title characters of HANSEL AND GRETEL. As the senior designer, Sally Fiorello oversees all designs, construction and physical aspects of this show. She is also an actor and Master Puppeteer with the Kathy Burks troupe and she previously co-directed many of their shows.

Once the design process is under way, every puppet, set piece, prop, costume and lighting design needs her approval. In order to comprehend the design process for the new character heads, we caught up with Sally, who explained it all.

When we first created the heads several years ago, the design process wasDSCN0974 under various time constraints that come with producing a new show, so it was impossible to make two new stars at the last minute. After all, it’s not just a matter of firing a couple of human actors and hiring two replacements. As difficult as that is, it’s not as hard as creating them from scratch.

 Troupe member Beck Schlabach was the main creator of these heads during the design process; other than a few finishing touches, she created them by hand. Using a plasticine clay, we first IMG_3191sculpt the overall shape of the head. Once we’re satisfied with the look, we create a “negative mold” using a silicone, rubber-like material. After the mold has dried, we pour (or cast) the heads using a Polyurethane casting resin. Once the casting has cured, we remove it and sand and repair any imperfections. Then we prime, paint and add hair or fur as the character demands. Many moreIMG_3190 steps happen even after the hair has been added before we finally complete the finished (full-bodied) puppet.

It might have taken 60 hours per puppet, but Sally said the whole troupe is satisfied with the look of each new head. You got a closeup of each work of art in this blog, but don’t miss out on seeing this art in action!




Come see the new heads onstage while HANSEL AND GRETEL runs from Now through April 3, 2016. For tickets call the Box Office at 214-740-0051 or visit dct.org.



Hansel and Gretel lets kids nibble at opera

humpWhen I heard that DCT’s Hansel and Gretel was using the music of Engelbert Humperdinck, I immediately wondered how the Las Vegas pop singer’s music lent itself to the aesthetic of a classic fairy tale. I quickly learned something I didn’t know. Turns out the stage name of the 70’s icon came from the composer who crafted the opera Hänsel und Gretel in 1890. That made a lot more sense.

I also learned that Humperdinck first crafted some of the music for a small puppet show for the children in his family. Perfect!

DCT’s B. Wolf created her own play with music, which is the Hansel and Gretel your kids will see, so she told me more about her process of developing this show and incorporating Humperdinck’s rich assets.

Humperdinck’s opera, Hänsel und Gretel, is his most famous work. He wrote other operas, but I don’t believe they are performed today. His Hänsel und Gretel is performed often. It is full of gorgeous melodies, great material for songs and underscoring.

My process in using this material is difficult to describe. I first had to decide BWolfwhat would be better conveyed in song, as opposed to what would be conveyed in dialogue. Two of the songs, The Dream and The Sandman, are not taken from Humperdinck; they are original melodies of mine. The songs sung by the Witch have my lyrics set to Humperdinck melodies, sometimes switched into minor keys. The prayer song which the children sing is Humperdinck’s melody, my lyrics.

The scene where Berta, the goose, flies all about the cottage with the children chasing her is underscored with Humperdinck’s melodies, in a humorous arrangement. Using these same melodies, I created foreboding underscoring to convey the fearful forest at night. In underscoring the Witch’s scenes, I alternated between foreboding and humorous (don’t want to scare them too much!)

 I think these melodies complement the story perfectly, and that is one reason the opera is still so popular today.

 Of course I hope the children (and adults!) will respond by being transported into the long ago world of this fairy tale, and that the music will be the mystical means of transporting them there (along with the great sets, gorgeous lighting, and masterful artistry of the puppeteers!)

275x275_hanselDCT is so fortunate to have Kathy Burks, B. Wolf and their team who continue to reinvent some of the most beloved stories for our children. Hansel and Gretel runs March 4 – April 3 at DCT, and is definitely something you’ll want your family to sink their teeth into!

For ticket information, go to dct.org


By Sherry Ward

See you at the theater!

DCT Hosts First Ever Sensory-Friendly Puppet Show

When some families prepare to go out for a special event, their biggest challenge is getting everyone ready and into the car at the same time. For other families, like the 100,000+ families who have a member on the autism spectrum or other developmental disabilities, the biggest challenge is finding an activity their son or daughter will enjoy, in a welcoming, non-threatening environment.

top leftThanks to our friends at The Crystal Charity Ball, DCT has more than $500,000 to expand our Sensory-Friendly Performance Initiative by doubling the number of these performances over the next three years. On March 12, 2016 at 4:30pm, we are offering the first ever, sensory-friendly version of a Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts’ production with HANSEL AND GRETEL!

Nancy Schaeffer, DCT’s Education Director, told us why sensory-friendly performances matter now, more than ever. 

The generous grant from The Crystal Charity Ball provides us with the resources we need to tailor our offerings to families who have children with special needs. We were so excited to be able to develop this program after finding out how many families feel excluded from live theater experiences because their children and their sometimes unexpected behaviors aren’t welcome or because the venues they’ve tried in the past really didn’t understand what it means to truly provide a sensory-friendly environment. We have invested the time and energy to set this program up the correct way thanks to all of this wonderful support we’ve gotten, and we couldn’t be happier for our new theater-going families.

Since Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts is a vital part of our regular bottom rightseason, we wanted to be able to offer these high-quality, amazingly creative performances to our families that might need the sensory-friendly adaptations and experience. We’re also happy that these families will be introduced to another art form and another way of theatrical expression. We think they’ll love it.

Trish Long is a Master Puppeteer with Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts. She tells us how Kathy Burks puppeteers will connect with their new audiences.

All forms of theater should be accessible to all children. From my viewpoint, the characters become just as realistic as shows with real people. It’s quite a magical feeling connecting to the audience, and we’re honored to be included in DCT’s offerings for sensory-friendly families.

Before the sensory-friendly performance of HANSEL AND GRETEL, I’ll be in the lobby showing my puppet to children so they are aware of what they’ll be seeing and won’t have any big surprises. There’s a big difference between real people on stage and watching puppets on stage, even though the puppeteers are able to really bring the characters to life. There have been some children who thought they were watching real people after leaving one of our shows!

The goal of DCT’s programming has always been to make people are understood, and like they fit in. Including the Kathy Burks’ shows as part of our sensory-friendly options opens the door for all families to have new experiences together, at DCT.



Next Sensory-Friendly Performance Day Schedule

3:30 – 4:30pm Optional pre-show activities including facepainting, clown performances and other activities Participate at whatever level is best for your family
4:00pm Doors to the theater are opened
4:30pm Show begins
(There will be NO intermission for this production.)

Kathy Burks Theatre of Puppetry Arts’

March 12, 2016 at 4:30 PM – You don’t always need a prince and princess for your heroes to live happily ever after. Two children in search of food for their hungry family get lost in an enchanted forest. They must depend on all their powers of imagination to save them from the crafty, mysterious old woman in the candy house and (in this less “grim” version) lead them back to the loving arms of their parents. The familiar, melodic music of Engelbert Humperdinck brings an inventive theatricality to the retelling of this beloved fairy tale adventure. HANSEL AND GRETEL brings another feast for the eyes and ears to the stage from Kathy Burks’ Master Puppeteers.

Recommended for ages 4 and up

To Purchase Tickets

DCT wants to make sure families have no barriers that would prevent them from at least sampling these great opportunities created especially for them! Tickets are $5 per person. Regular DCT show prices range from $13 to $28.  Additionally scholarships are available if needed thanks to a grant from The Crystal Charity Ball.  Please inquire when you call in to reserve your tickets.

To purchase tickets or get more information, please call 214-740-0051.

To read more about our sensory program, go to dct.org/sensory

Edward Tulane’s MIRACULOUS JOURNEY is a must-see!

Steph Garrett / DCT Teaching Artist

Recently, I was presented with a MIRACULOUS opportunity. I had the privilege of discussing THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE with four very diverse families. Before I go any further, here is a synopsis of the book:

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, for he was owned by a girl named Abilene who treated him with the utmost care and adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost. Throughout his miraculous journey, Edward faced the risk it takes to love and be loved when you open your heart to others.

You might find THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE in the Children’s section at the library or a local bookstore, but the book is never “childish”, and the message of love is a simple one that appeals to people of all ages. That was evident in my recent discussion with our “Journeymakers.”

Each family read THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, and then _J2_8970attended a discussion where virtually no topic was off limits. I was very pleased with the openness of the group and the willingness to share such personal stories and how they related to the book. I was surprised at the impressive insight of each member; even the youngest (5 years old) had something to say! Most of the adults said that their children became so emotionally invested when reading the book as a family that that alone was a rewarding experience. One Journeymaker in particular stressed the importance of one of the book’s main themes: listening.

_J2_8754“Everyone is different and has a story to tell, and we should be quiet and listen. You’ll learn more about people and increase your relationships and the depth of those relationships if you just listen to others.”

However, listening isn’t the only important theme in this book. When asked what major themes stood out to them, the other Journeymakers added family, honesty to one’s self, compassion, redemption, and self sacrifice to the list.

I have read the book numerous times, and what was so remarkable was that _J2_8770everyone made his or her own discoveries throughout the story. One finding came from a gentleman in the group. He said, “[Edward] is a fragile bunny, and he has all of these amazing things happen to him. He falls in the ocean, is crushed by garbage, dragged around by a hobo, thrown off a train, and yet, he doesn’t break until he says, ‘I am broken’. All these things are happening to him. The circumstances don’t overwhelm him to the point of breaking until he decided he wasn’t enough. It was the _J2_8779revelation that he was enough and that the relationships he had were important. There are always going to be different circumstances in life, both good and bad, but the choice in how you handle it is what defines you.”

When asked what lessons they learned from Edward Tulane, one child said, “What I wear doesn’t really matter, how I look doesn’t really matter. What I am inside is what matters.” Another child concluded, “Love conquers all. Sometimes, you think you don’t need love, and sometimes love destroys you, but ultimately, love brings you back home.”


Steph Garrett as “The Woman”

The most important lesson I learned from THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE, and the dialogue with this remarkable group is that, in life, we don’t always get a second chance. It’s important for all of us to stop, even for a moment, and really listen to each other and look at the world around us. Enjoy a play with your family or a good meal with your friends and just appreciate what life has to offer. Put the screens down, even for a moment, have a conversation with each other and just listen. Life is truly a miraculous journey and those we share it with are irreplaceable.


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THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE runs at DCT March 18 – April 10. Watch for more information on the story, and in the meantime we encourage you to read the book. Its stunning, award-winning illustrations will bring the story to life almost as well as our live production. Check it out at your local library or find it on sale at the DCT store.

Recommended for ages 7 and up

Tickets and more show information @ www.dct.org