Mermaid Theatre is back on the road again.
One company is in Ireland this month, performing Guess How Much I Love You & I Love My Little Storybook at the Baboró International Children’s Festival in Galway from Oct 15-18, with additional outreach performances at the Hawkswell Theatre in Sligo on Oct 23-24 and the Pavilion Theatre in Dun Laoghaire on Oct 26-27.
Our Goodnight Moon & The Runaway Bunny show is touring the US and Canada now until May, 2016. The schedule of performance is on our website at mermaidtheatre.ca/ontour.
In preparation for our visit, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ asked us some questions about our work for their study guide. Our Artistic Director Jim Morrow replied, and a selection of his answers are reprinted below:
Q: How do your performances “introduce family audiences at home and abroad to the excitement of theatre and the performing arts”?
A: I think Mermaid Theatre is unique in the world of theatre for young audiences. Unlike many other companies, all our shows are adaptations of well-known storybooks that very young children learning to read. We do this because we not only promote excellence in children’s theatre but also promote literature and the joy of reading. It’s a very special feeling to witness a young child clutching his or her favourite book as they enter the theatre to see their favourite characters come to life on stage for the very first time. Our shows are also very detailed, elegant, and gently paced to allow the mind of the child to interact appropriately with the action onstage. And we use puppets which heighten the playfulness of our shows.
Q: How do you encourage literacy and the love of reading?
A: Our companies mission is to adapt universally well-known stories, by some of the world’s best-known authors, into theatre productions that tour around the globe. We have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to adapt some of the best including: The Very Hungry Caterpillar; Guess How Much I Love You; Swimmy/Frederick/Inch By Inch; Goodnight Moon; and Stella, Queen of the Snow. The challenge for theatre creators, regardless whether their plays are adaptations or original concepts, is to produce work that it is elegant, entertaining, and of quality.
Q: How do you select which children’s books to bring to the stage?
A: The very first consideration when choosing a storybook is whether the story itself is appealing to children. Most successful books written for the very young are penned, and often illustrated, by adults who have very special insights into what young children like and how the young mind thinks. These books often include simple text, evocative pictures, and defined characters that are easily relatable. In many of the most successful stories, the message, if there is one, is most often implied and, although an important consideration, it’s often a secondary to the story itself. Masterful children’s authors, and there are many, are able to evoke a sense of wonder and awe through elegant storytelling, delightful pictures, and memorable characters. Stories, pictures, and characters that children want to visit again and again, night after night. Many of these stories also make good plays.
Q: How did you decide to bring Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny to the stage specifically?
A: Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny are two books that have survived the test of time and are considered modern classics. Millions of people around the world have enjoyed the playful antics of Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd’s little bunnies so it was a thrill to have the opportunity to adapt these stories and bring them to life, onstage. Generations of children, and adults alike, have imagined these iconic characters hopping around the outdoors and in the Great Green Room, so it was also a particular challenge to interpret them in a manner that was both appropriate and satisfying to most readers.
Q: Many of your audience members have never seen a theatre performance before. How do they react?
A: It’s been my experience that audiences all over the world respond, more or less the same to our productions, especially the children. I believe they respond positively to the bright colours, the playful action, the recognizable characters and imagery, and the beautiful music – but mostly they are happy simply to be with friends and family, in the theatre, and to have an opportunity to laugh and shout and be entertained.
We’ll offer more of this Q&A at a later date…Have a great weekend!