Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Very Hungry Caterprillar

Children’s theatre—a wonderful opportunity to educate the young

Taking a child to a theatrical production especially geared at youth is a wonderful way to introduce future theatre audience members to the wonder s of live entertainment.

Recently, Playhouse Square Center brought to the Ohio Theatre the Mermain Theatre of Nova Scotia to perform three one-act plays based on the stories of Eric Carle. The presentation was part of the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital Discovery Theatre Series. The plays included the ‘LITTLE CLOUD,’ ‘MIXED-UP CAMELEON’ and ‘THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR.’

The company uses black lights, puppetry, and a policy of “no shushing” as they want children to yell out and interact and explore the stories as the production proceeds. The stagings allowed the viewers to see the hungry caterpillar munch his way to becoming a beautiful butterfly, the little cloud change shapes before their eyes, and the mixed-up chameleon teach the importance of being true to oneself. In the process, the kids learned numbers, counting, colors and the names of various beings.

As has been my custom with children’s theatre, or plays which are child friendly, I took Ian, my youngest grandson, who has recently joined the ranks of “The Kid Reviewers” to be my child’s eyes and ears regarding the show. Ian, at the mature age of 8 (or, as he reminded me, he was actually 7 and 364/365ths), said he had read the stories when he was “little” but was still engrossed by the puppetry techniques and black light effects. He rejoiced in figuring out the technique used by the puppeteers to allow the caterpillar to “eat” its way through apples and oranges. He was very interested when, during the question-and-answer session which followed the performance, the puppeteers explained how they made and manipulated the animated creatures. He discussed what he had learned all the way home.

Capsule judgment: Taking children to live theatre is a wonderful way of aiding young ones to realize the excitement of live theatre. Thanks to all of the theatres in the area who make these opportunities possible.