Monday, July 22, 2013

After the Beanstalk: Jack, Jill and the Giant

This post about a new interactive Museum performance was shared by AmeriCorps Museum Educator Francesca Montanile.

When the theatre team assembled for our first meeting, we had no idea what our new play would be.  Despite the uncertainty, there was an excitement in the air.  Dozens of ideas were tossed around, but we kept coming back to a sequel to Jack and the Beanstalk. The ideas for different scenes, participatory challenges, and plot twists came naturally, buzzing with possibility. We gathered a team of theatre makers and educators to refine our storyline and the script was born.

The 20-minute performance tells the story of Jack, who is kidnapped and taken to Cloud Town after breaking the Giant’s crown. His sister Jill enlists the audience to help rescue him.  In Cloud Town, they tackle a series of spatial thinking challenges to escape. In the end, they must meet the Giant face to face!

One of our guiding principles throughout the process was to make the play as participatory as possible. The Museum is a place for play and exploration, and we wanted our audience to be a part of the story.

To me, the creation of the play itself felt like a puzzle. It was inspiring to see how many people from the Museum’s community chipped in and added an essential piece to the final product. From the backdrop sewn by Philenda, to the rock set piece made by the exhibits team, to the contributions of fellow AmeriCorps members – finger puppets sewn by Amanda and brilliant set and props by Sarah and Mandy – the play was collaborative in every sense of the word. The Giant’s evolution was like a visual timeline of our process.  From its humble beginnings as a huge blue yoga ball to a loveable big-eyed puppet, many hands helped apply paper maché and many minds brainstormed its mechanics.

When the morning of the opening performance arrived, I began to get a little nervous. It felt like a piece of our puzzle was missing.  As I spoke my first lines, it became immediately clear: the children in the audience were the missing piece! All of a sudden, the story was alive and exciting. The challenges were urgent. The Giant was gigantic!

The play is a joy to perform because the energy kids create is infectious. Their tendencies to speak aloud, get the “wiggles,” and experience the story in real time might be a challenge in a conventional theatre setting but become assets as they transform into our play’s heroes.

After the Beanstalk is presented Mondays through August 12 at 10:30 & 11:30 AM and 12:30 & 1:30 PM; recommended for ages 3 and up.