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.
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.
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.
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.
By Jacqueline Woodson
A young girl learns the cost of bullying when she loses the opportunity to make a new friend.
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.
Have You Filled a Bucket Today?
By Carol McCloud
A book encouraging positive behavior via the metaphor of filling buckets.
The 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.
The Invisible String
By Patrice Karst
A mother’s lesson to her children about the invisible string of love connecting us all together.
The Missing Piece
Meets the Big O
By Shel Silverstein
A simple story about a character who wants to become something different.
By Cedella Marley
Based on the Bob Marley classic, a young girl brings her community together to create a better neighborhood.
The Peace Book
By Todd Parr
A book about the importance of tolerance, designed for children just learning to read.
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.
The Three Questions
By Jon J. Muth
A boy is resolved to be the best person he can be, but is not sure how.
The 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.
The Way I Feel
By Janan Cain
A fun, colorful book of expressive illustrations that help developing kids describe their emotions.