Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Emperor's Ears

This year we continued what has become a Father's Day tradition: attending a show at Talespinner Children's Theatre. Their inaugural production, The Tale of the Name of the Tree had just opened last June and while my family offered to just leave me alone for the day (to go running, or go writing, any number of solitary pursuits) I preferred to spend time with my favorite people in the world, my wife and children.

This year they are presenting the Serbian folktale The Emperor's Ears. Last winter I sat in on the annual auditions for the 2013 TCT productions, because I wanted to be able to weigh on on casting for Adventures In Slumberland, which opens November 30. I watched as six sets of actors collaborated very fast to tell this same tale of a young prince born with goat's ears, I saw it reinterpreted six different times.

They were working from a brief synopsis, not the script as presented in this fully-produced version, written by Michael Sepesy (who also wrote Name of the Tree) and so I was excited to learn how it would play in an hour-long version, how Sepesy would put his special, sardonic spin on the language, and what beautiful costumes, dance, song and other tricks were going to be employed to bring the tale to life.

Not only did I have my own, immediate family with me, but I also brought my dad. We were all very delighted with the show, in particular I was so happy with all the actor-teachers in the company -- Andrew, Carrie and Katelyn. I thought Andrew was particularly in his element, unrestrained in his consummate goofiness, especially as big, grumpy, hirsute, fat guy.

Most of my glee, however, was for Cathleen O'Malley, who was so awesome at audition, she's the kind of actor who makes you want to write plays for them. 

It's a challenge, I think, to create a protagonist for a children's work. Many opt to make them bland ciphers, someone whose shoes child can theoretically step into easily ... only what child has no personality? But then, so many modern characters in children's stories and movies are just plain awful, too self-aware to have wonder.

Sepesy drew and O'Malley inhabits a young woman with a serious problem and together they are hilarious and very fun, especially when they have such great supporting characters to work against.

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