Friday, May 4, 2018

Family Theater Day (2018)

Lula Del Ray
Yesterday, Google celebrated the work of Georges Méliès with a 360° video, highlighting examples of his films. The craftsmanship that went into those movies is absolutely remarkable. Today’s video animations (like the aforementioned “Google Doodle”) stand atop the shoulders of those giants who relied upon wood and nails and paper and glue, and most important of all -- light.

This weekend at Playhouse Square they are presenting Family Theater Day (formerly the International Children’s Theatre Festival) where Cleveland audiences will have the opportunity to see some amazing professional productions intended for all-ages by companies from around the world.

Lula Del Ray, presented by Manual Cinema (Chicago, IL) is a phenomenal accomplishment, an exquisite animated picture postcard, rich in nostalgia and longing and executed with precision and wonder. I sat with an audience of children from schools across the region at the Connor Palace, and after a few moments of requisite shushing, they sat in absolute silence, enrapt not only by the story but the artistry which was present to the eye.

Using three old school overhead projectors, countless transparencies, a guitar and string trio plus one computer keyboard player, and a couple actors, the company told an a largely wordless saga, projected as shadows onto a large screen.

A teenager, stuck in the desert where he mother manages a satellite array, yearns to visit the big city to see the country duo, The Baden Brothers. Their haunting rendition of the traditional ballad, Lord, Blow The Moon Out, as performed live by these musicians, would have made my teenage heart long to be a part of something bigger.

The Secret Life of Suitcases
The other day I also had the chance to see The Secret Life of Suitcases, created by Ailie Cohen and Lewis Heatherington (Scotland) which is staged like an elaborate gift box or pop-up book; a fairly mundane and muted exterior opens and expands to reveal color and adventure and joy.

Larry is serious about his work and never joins the rest of the office for lunch, until a flying suitcase shows him how much more is out in the world to experience. A duo of puppeteers carry Larry through several journeys utilizing forced perspective, unusual voices, and plentiful droll charm.

The first time I was made aware of this annual event was five years ago, when I was at the very beginning of my enterprise in the writing and creation of plays for child audiences. I am constantly amazed and delighted by the effort and craft companies from all over put into developing stylish and moving productions like these, and they have inspired me in my work.

Bring the family downtown tomorrow, several of the events are ticketed and while others are free. But you don’t even need to bring a child to be captivated by these productions.

Family Theater Day in Playhouse Square is Saturday, May 5, 2018.

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