Last Tuesday I spent the day at the Hope Elephant Sanctuary in Hope Maine. I met several hard-working volunteers, Dr. Jim Laurita and two 7,500 pound Asian elephants named Rosie and Opal. I was the “playwright in residence” collecting stories and information for the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s upcoming play The Road to Hope: An Elephant’s Story.
Rosie and Opal retired from the circus in 2012. Rosie’s birthplace is on the other side of the world, in Thailand. She was orphaned by her mother and as an infant was shipped off to an American circus. She joined the Big Top just about the same time as Dr. Jim Laurita and his brother Tom, in the mid 1970s. Jim and Tom traveled town to town with their juggling act. When Jim wasn’t throwing things into the air he was taking care of the elephants. Jim and Rosie developed a special connection when Rosie was young. As Jim went to Cornell to study veterinary medicine and to India to study Asian elephants in the wild, he never forgot Rosie.
Rosie was able to form strong bonds and connections with humans but not with other elephants. She looked different and she didn’t speak the elephant language or know the social cues. In a struggle for leadership and dominance, another elephant attacked Rosie and pushed her into a circus truck. This incident caused irreparable damage to Rosie’s shoulder and scapula. After working all those years in the circus, she also developed nerve damage in her trunk and arthritis in her leg.
Dr. Jim formed Hope Elephants in the fall of 2012, “because he always wanted to do something nice for those girls”—Rosie in particular. At Hope Elephants the girls have healthy diets; fresh carrots and Purina elephant chow. They receive exercise and mental stimulation; and most importantly they found true elephant friendship and support. Jim carefully chose Opal to come to Hope to be Rosie’s companion. Rosie is the matriarch of their two elephant herd and now it appears that the two girls are the best of friends.
The bond between the two elephants is remarkable and the crowning achievement at Hope. Like a true mentor or role model, Jim recognized that Rosie needed more than diet and exercise to live a comfortable fulfilling life. As a writer, teacher and director, I am struck and inspired by this story of kindness and empathy. I think young people will relate to Rosie’s story on a level that crosses species and culture. Bullying is an epidemic in our schools today, but can be found anywhere, in school yards, circus tents or in the wild. Rosie’s story is that of perseverance, persistence of spirit, and will offer us all hope that true friendship does exist.
Want to learn more about the Hope Elephant Sanctuary? Visit their website: www.hopeelephants.org
This morning, we had a staff meeting to do what in the theatre world is called a “table read.” This is when we gather together to do a read-through of the script for the upcoming theatre production. Usually, most of the readers have never read the script before, so it is really a fun experience for everyone to act “off-the-cuff.”
The final show for this season is “Cinderella: The World’s Favorite Fairy Tale.” This is a special re-telling of the classic, featuring Cinderella stories from three different cultures: Russian, Chinese, and Micmac. The unique interpretations of this story are bookended by segues by our familiar Cinderella, telling the audience about the next story to come.
I got to read a few fun parts, including the narrator for the traditional Chinese take on Cinderella. It turns out that, in Chinese theatre, the narrator frequently appears right on stage and serves as a sort of conductor and stage manager, directing the flow of actor traffic as well as props and scenery.
Here’s a few quick candid snaps from our table read. So much fun! While it was very useful to our Theatre Director Reba, as well as some of our theatre staff who were present, it was just pure fun for me! I’ve been taking to heart the idea of frequent “playtime” for adults, even if it is not like the play we experienced as children. Today’s read was undoubtedly play, all the way.
Opening night of Santa’s Reindeer Revue is finally here! Performances are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays today through December 19 at 4pm each day. For a complete list of show times click here.
As a sneak peek, we’re lucky enough to find out about some of the cast and characters from the actors themselves!
Brooks is playing Dasher in the play. Dasher is a hip, boom boxing reindeer. Brooks is 10 years old and this is his 4th year working with Reba. He enjoys learning all aspects of the theatre from Reba and especially loves all the voice exercises they do as a group. On the way to rehearsal Brooks likes to sing to get himself into character and really enjoys when he gets to charge at Donner on stage.
Donner is played by Andrew who describes his character as the oldest and strongest reindeer. Andrew says it’s fun to play Donner as an ancient and grumpy old man and he gets into character during warm-ups by thinking about what it would feel like to be that old. Andrew is 14 and this is his second mainstage show at the Children’s Theatre. He has also appeared in Kids on the Block and Custard the Dragon at the Children’s Theatre.
10-year-old Sophie plays the part of Jane – the living “Reindeer Encyclopedia” who loves reindeer and knows all there is to know about them. Sophie was also a part of the Beauty and the Beast production and the thing she likes best about acting is being on stage in front of a crowd!
Bianca plays the role of Becca, a human who is terrified by Santa’s reindeer when they first appear. Bianca’s character is the director of the play within the play of Santa’s Reindeer Revue and for inspiration she’s observed Reba’s actions as a director. Bianca is 16 and has been involved with the Children’s Theatre since 2006 when she was in Madeline at the Theatre’s old home on Marginal Way.
The trees may be hanging on to the last of their fall leaves but over at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, Santa’s reindeer are gearing up for the holidays.. the holiday production of Santa’s Reindeer Revue, that is!
I sat in on a rehearsal for the production last week and was greeted by an exuberant group of reindeer-in-training. Before rehearsal officially began there was loads of energy bouncing around the stage and I knew immediately that I was in for a treat!
The afternoon started off with a circle of yoga stretches followed by vocal exercises. When everyone seemed thoroughly warmed-up, actors took their places on stage to act out a scene in which Santa’s reindeer are showing off their various talents. As I watched, I knew right away that the reindeer in the show weren’t the only talented ones – these actors knew their stuff!
Many of the actors in Santa’s Reindeer Revue have been in previous productions put on by the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine and their experience – and passion for theatre – blew me away! I can’t wait to see what else they have in store.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be dropping by rehearsals, chatting with cast members, and snapping some behind the scenes photos so be sure to stay tuned for more sneak peaks of Santa’s Reindeer Revue!
Have you ever wondered how the set for a play is created? Who comes up with the ideas? How do they decide on the colors, and which props to use? Who puts it all together? Chris Fitze, our Exhibits and Operations Associate, has worked behind the scenes in theatre for many years and takes a leading role in set design here at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. Here, he shares an inside look at the process of creating a set for our next show, Santa’s Reindeer Revue. (You can click here for show tickets and info.)
“Even though we are still a few weeks away from opening night (Dec 3rd), design and construction of the set for Santa’s Reindeer Revue is well under way! Reba Short, our Theatre Artistic Director, asked us to design a set that would be simple and allow a lot of room to play. After reading the script, we developed a concept that would allow us to travel to two different locations, while sticking to the same central theme.
Santa’s Reindeer Revue takes place in two very different places. The show begins at the North Pole, where Santa’s Reindeer are (what else?) playing games, and getting ready for their big night! The show then travels to the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, where the cast of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer are well into rehearsals at our very own Dress-Up Theatre. At the climax of the play, we come to opening night. And, although this is still in the Dress-Up Theatre, the look has to be one of Opening Night – not of rehearsal.
For the North Pole, we decided to keep a very open stage with a few hints of the great outdoors. “Real” trees, snowdrifts, and a North Pole sign all indicate the location without bulking up the stage. This allows plenty of room for the reindeer to play their games without being hindered by an overcrowded stage. When the play moves to the Dress-Up Theatre, we came to the conclusion that because the actors are rehearsing a play about the North Pole, the stage could still resemble the North Pole, but with more obvious stage pieces. Tree cutouts, ladders, and Christmas lights half-strung let us know this is a production in progress. By moving the ladders, adding some curtains, and stringing the lights properly, the stage will “magically” transform from rehearsal to opening night (although a little quicker than in real life!)!
Sometimes bigger is not always better. A simple set allows the actors and director to explore the full area more completely, and relies on the audience’s imagination to create their own magic. Isn’t that what this holiday season is all about?
Enjoy the show!”
Who doesn’t love Pinocchio? I remember it was one of the first Disney movies that my brother would watch with me because it wasn’t “girly.” When I was a little older, I remember watching what we called a “real people” (not a cartoon!) Pinocchio movie that was much truer to the Carlo Collodi story. The Field of Miracles quickly became my favorite part of the story and I am so glad that the Museum & Theatre production of Pinocchio includes it!
I ventured downstairs to the Dress Up Theatre last night for a mini photo shoot with the cast. First off, let me just say that costumes look AMAZING! Christina, our costume designer and front desk staffer, has outdone herself once again. If she helps you at the front desk be sure to congratulate her (of course, you should see the show first!).
I also met some new faces in the cast and, like all our young actors, they have already immersed themselves into the Museum & Theatre community. One of the greatest things about our theatre program is the welcoming atmosphere created by the young actors. They accept new faces with open arms and wish good luck to those who move on to other activities! Along with this, they’ve started a new tradition of creating raps for each show. I got a taste of a rap Pinocchio (played by Reed Foehl) created; the audience is really in for a treat!
Though I only saw bits and pieces of scenes, I know this is going to be a fast-paced and engaging production. With the multiple scene changes (aided by a great signpost that you can see on the Pinocchio poster and postcard) and fun costumes, audiences young and old will be on the edge of their seats! Be sure to buy your tickets to see the adventures of Pinocchio as he discovers what it truly means to be a real boy. The show opens in TWO WEEKS!
To buy tickets visit www.kitetails.org, call 828-1234 x231 or stop by our front desk!
After stage managing The Emperor’s New Clothes this past winter, I was really excited to sit in on Tuesday’s rehearsal of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings. It was a chance to see some of the actors I knew and meet some new faces! When I came in, Michela and Sheena (who played Empress Sophie and Theodore in The Emperor’s New Clothes, respectively) were in the middle of a scene. I sat down and watched them in action. It was amazing to see them play characters that are so different from the ones they played in The Emperor’s New Clothes. Michela was hopping around the stage playing Little Rabbit and Sheena was quite a sassy and funny Real Girl (and she has such a beautiful singing voice!)
As the rehearsal went on, I saw the actors transform into a forest of animals. Everyone had their own way of becoming their character that I knew right away what animal they were portraying. But I know from experience that it’s always tricky staying in character, especially when you have so many things to think about. Every moment you’re onstage you have to think: if I were a duck, what would I be doing right now? But that’s where Reba comes in! She let the actors explore their characters, but if they get stuck she always is there is give them guidance, suggestions or real-world examples of how a character might react to something. Little Rabbit’s new red wings were related to a changed hairdo, eyebrow waxing and a squid backpack—all examples given by other cast members!
I’ve been doing theatre since I was 10 years old, so I know how exciting the rehearsal process can be. This is the time for actors to make bold choices, become friends with their fellow cast members and learn news things about themselves and their character. The cast of The Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings has a few weeks of rehearsal left and from what I saw they are doing a fantastic job. I can’t wait to see the final product!
Tickets are on sale now! To buy tickets visit our website, call 828-1234 x231 or stop by the front desk! The play runs Thursday-Sunday from April 22 – May 2. Thursday and Friday performances are at 4pm and Saturday and Sunday performances are at 1pm & 4pm.