Posts Tagged ‘Les moutons’

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Four Days, 44 Shows (Really.)

February 2, 2011

By Lian Farrer, Vice President for Education

The week before last I was in Tampa Bay, FL, at the annual IPAY (International Performing Arts for Youth) Showcase and conference. And yes, I really did see 44 shows in just 4 days. And went to workshops, meetings, lectures, and a party or two. Despite the grueling schedule, I came home reenergized and excited about the things I saw, heard, and did.

I’ll begin with the sheep. Or, I should say, Les moutons. That’s the name of this bizarre but inspired interactive performance piece presented by a dance company from Toronto called Corpus. They set up a sheep pen (complete with sheep dung that I hope wasn’t real) on the plaza alongside the river walk. Through the crowd came a shepherd driving his flock: dancers dressed in sheep’s costumes. The dancer/actors who played the sheep should all win awards for never once breaking character during the show. They did the usual sheep-y things, including getting shorn and milked. I tasted the milk, warm from the udder. (Don’t ask.) Kids in the audience had a chance to come up to the pen and feed the critters. This show was totally goofy and unexpected. I’d like to figure out a way to work Les moutons into our State Theatre season. Can you hear me out there, Cook College?

Another show featuring herd animals was equally strange and wonderful: The Wolf and the Goat, by Italy’s Compagnia Rodisio. A wolf and a goat, natural enemies, take shelter one stormy night and, not recognizing each other in the dark, become friends. When daylight comes, will the wolf eat the goat? Will the goat manage to escape? Or will they break the accepted order of things and remain friends? (The audience never finds out.) The show is basically two actors—not in animal costumes, thank goodness—a red velvet settee, and three small lighted trees. Dressed in a simple white frock, Manuela Capece, playing the goat was all wide-eyed innocence, while Davide Doro, as the wolf, managed to be both sleazy and seductively sexy at the same time. The Wolf and the Goat was originally in Italian; my colleagues and I were further impressed when we learned that Davide Doro spoke no English, and had learned his part phonetically. Bravo, Davide!

Without a doubt, my very favorite showcase was Grug. Now, I will confess to you here that I normally don’t get too excited about shows for really little kids. But I lost my heart to a character who “began his life as the top of a burrawong tree” and who looks like this:

Grug was created by Australia’s Windmill Theatre and is based on a children’s book series that I confess I’d never heard of. The production was everything theater should be: imaginative, expertly performed, and completely captivating. I loved the clever design of the sets and puppets. Most of all, I was struck by how the actors seemed genuinely delighted to be performing for their young audience; there was no condescension and none of that exaggerated cheerfulness that makes me cringe at so many other shows targeted to kids this age. As we like to remind each other in my profession, children are just like our adult audience, only smaller.