Script reading season has begun. I have decided not to do an adult fall show at UW-Manitowoc, but I will direct a children's play for January. Of all the projects I sign on for, the kid's show tops the list. The Manitowoc Public School bus in all their kindergartners and some first graders as well. A few day care centers join in the fun, along with some groups of challenged and fun-loving adults. Seeing (and hearing) the theatre filled to bursting with wiggly little ones clarifies why I do this.
For many, our show is the first live performance they have ever seen and some aren't quite sure what they're watching. After last years production of Snow White, a young girl stopped me, hands on hips and asked, "Now, were those puppets up there, or real people or what?"
"What do you think they were?"
"And that mean lady, she looked like my principal (student was correct in that discovery) and sometimes she didn't look like her."
"Don't you think that Mrs. Burish is at work taking care of your school."
"Sure, Now, about those puppets..."
Another little boy told me that our show was the best "movie" he had ever seen. Throughout the show, teachers did their best to capture wee ones attempting to run down isles and up steps to check on poor Snow White. "I warned you,' one little guy shouted as she bit into the apple and then fainted. We saw tears when the show was over and everyone headed back to the buses. Most rewarding are the comments we hear after the fact about kids going back to school, building simple sets with chairs and boxes, throwing a towel-cape around their necks and revving up their creative motors to put on their own rendition of our show.
Finding a script isn't easy. Many are roughly written, with sloppy story arcs and lots of name calling. Really, does Red Riding Hood have to be called a "brat"? There's lying, abduction and murder. Not right for our audiences. Really, the wolf eats LRRH and grandma? Of course, the production notes give no indication of how to depict that on stage...just the simple stage direction saying "wolf eats RRH." The same goes for Pinocchio's nose which grows somehow in front of the audience. I generally read about fifteen scripts before I come up with one that fractures the story in the right places, giving it a fresh, playful spin. Is it too much to ask for tap-dancing billy goats? How about stepsisters that aren't ugly but have eccentric personalities instead?
After a fortune spent on scripts and a weekend of reading, I have nothing. I will take one more stab at it, but my gut tells me this is the year I will write my own little script. I'm thinking about "Red Riding Hood: The Wolf Tells All." Anyone want to brainstorm with me?