In the land of make believe
Performers use bright colors and a gentle pace to engage children 5 and younger in live theater.
“Very Eric Carle” is an compilation of three books by the author, including “Little Cloud,” “The Mixed-Up Chameleon” and “The Very Busy Spider.”
Colorful, magical and endearing – that’s what children’s book author Eric Carle is all about. And Mermaid Theatre from Nova Scotia agrees.
The company has catered to children since its inception, though initially they focused on kids 5 to 12.
“Traditionally, we’ve been creating playspace for storybooks for years,” said Artistic Director Jim Moore. “But there’s a significant lack of theater for anyone under 5.”
When, in 1999, they went looking for children’s authors for the five-and-younger crowd, it was inevitable they’d find Carle. The company visits Beaver Creek’s Vilar Center Wednesday with two performances of “Very Eric Carle” at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“Eric Carle is one of the world’s most famous and popular authors for children,” said Moore.
Mermaid Theatre initially adapted both “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” and “The Very Quiet Cricket” for the stage. “Very Eric Carle” is a trilogy of sorts, and includes “Little Cloud,” “The Mixed-Up Chameleon” and “The Very Busy Spider.”
“For children, I’m personally drawn to the simplicity – the implied message, and something very simple learned,” said Morrow. “I’m not a big fan of over-messaging.”
The pace is gentle, he said. Fast enough to keep kids’ attention, but slow enough for them to understand and get involved in the story.
“It’s highly visual,” continued Morrow. “We’ve learned children are attracted to gentle images, with a lot of magic and curiosity. At the end of the show we engage the audience in questions.”
The questions are important because he wants to create a real relationship with the children. Because Mermaid Theatre is often the first live theater children are exposed to, they want it to be fantastic.
“We want them to come back,” he said.
In addition to being the company’s artistic director, Morrow made the puppets for “Very Eric Carle.” They are not marionettes, muppets nor hand puppets – they’re something he developed exclusively for the show. Apparently, it’s a see-it-to-understand-it sort of thing. The duo performing the show wear many hats – they’re animators, puppeteer and performers.
“It looks like a lot of props,” he said. “These are complicated shows to produce because only two people perform. Part of the challenge is making it look like more than that, but we don’t want to overwhelm the kids.”
This show will be on the road for nine months throughout the U.S. and Canada. Mermaid Theatre has several touring troupes, and some make the trek to Asia once or twice a year.
Morrow encourages adults to come with their little ones.
“It’s a sharing experience for both you and the child,” he said. “You can discover things as they do. But a word of advice – make sure they pee before they sit.”
Wren Wertin can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone at 949-0555, ext. 618.