When you think of the story of Hansel and Gretel, what comes to mind?
A big candy house? A trail of breadcrumbs? I bet you can think of all sorts of things right off the top of your head.
Now just think: any of those elements of the story could be the building blocks for a brand new script, for a brand new play.
Theatre Artistic Director Reba Short and I have both written some material for a few of the recent takes on fairy tales that have been performed here at the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, but this spring, we’re doing something different.
We’ve begun meeting twice a week with a group of nine Children’s Theatre actors in a unique setting: the kids aren’t rehearsing, they’re writing, and acting out (or simply freeze-framing) their own material. That’s right, this time, kids are writing the script!
This is playmaking.
Drawing from the original Brothers Grimm story, some real life stories from the actors in the form of writing prompts, and lots of improvisation, we’re gathering material to create our fall production of Hansel and Gretel.
“Hansel, I’m scared. I’m scared of what’s out there. In the forest.”
These words, written by playmaker and theatre veteran Zara Boss, were spoken during our Thursday meeting this week, and who knows?—Gretel might end up saying them in the final version of the script.
But right now, we just don’t know. And that’s what makes playmaking so much fun.
I love this process, because anything is fair game… I never thought that the breadcrumbs on the path or the spices in the witch’s kitchen might be characters themselves, but ask any of these actors, and they’ll tell you exactly what spices and breadcrumbs are thinking about:
“If only I was as popular as that paprika!” laments Aiden Davenport as a spice, while Edyson Pines mopes as a breadcrumb, “Those good-for-nothing kids, they left me behind!” Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, breadcrumb MacKenzie Jones cries out, “There are birds here!”
I’ll be blogging about our process and progress each week as we continue to discover the world of Hansel and Gretel to create our original take on the tale. I, for one, can’t wait to see what this group comes up with next!
Brittany Cook has been working with the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine since 2011. She has served as Musical Director, scoring and playing the original music for our mainstage productions, and she has worn many other hats as well! Brittany will direct our fall production of Hansel & Gretel.