Words by JJ West
It is really important to me that my children have a variety of cultural experiences as they are growing up. We travel, we read, we explore. When I was offered the opportunity to take my girls to experience Elephant and Piggie’s “We’re in a Play!” at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater, I jumped at it. I love the theater ( I mean, seriously, I have a college degree in English literature—they don’t hand those out to people who don’t enjoy a well-written play!) I was also patting myself on the back for being an awesome Mom who takes her children to see plays. I was envisioning an afternoon with grateful, well-behaved, and smartly dressed children so overcome with their newfound love for the theater, they’d sing my praises from the backseat on the way home.
And then, I actually had to take a three- year -old and five- year- old to the theater.
Here is a sampling of statements I said once we arrived in the parking lot:
“You brought shoes, right? I thought you had shoes when we left the house.”
“Get out of the fountain.”
“I said get out of the fountain! Oh my God, you can’t drink that water! Stop!”
“Don’t stand in the chairs.”
“You look weird. Do you need to throw up? You’d tell me if you needed to throw up, right?”
“Do you need to go potty?”
“Stop looking under the bathroom stalls!”
“Don’t swing on the railing.”
“No, that is the set for the play. It is not a playground—get off!”
Thank goodness the front of the house staff is so great with children. I am serious—they were fun and genuinely excited to have children in attendance. My little hooligans did not phase them one bit, nor did any of the 300 young elementary students also in attendance.
The production is held in the Margeson theater—it is perfect for children! It is a “theatre-in-the-round”, so the children really feel like a part of the experience. My three-year-old felt so much a part of it that she was really confused about why she could not join the cast as they were frolicking about on all of the props.
The story is the retelling of several of the well-known Elephant and Piggie books. Mo Willems, the author of the books also wrote the play. The narrative is fluid and well-paced. The music is sweet, catchy, and well-choreographed. I kept waiting for “the lull” that would lead to one of them demanding a snack or requesting we leave. It never came. Not only were my girls enthralled, but the other children in the audience were having fun, too. When the actors left the stage, one of the little boys in front of use turned to his teacher and said, “That was awesome!”
My girls genuinely enjoyed the experience. They have each asked to go back. The five-year-old most enjoyed “the dancing”. The 3-year-old most enjoyed, “when they were being silly.”
I do have a word of advice if you are considering taking children under the age of five, you may want to show them the publicity photos (https://www.flickr.com/photos/orlandoshakes/26007091485/in/album-72157666251622836) or give them an in-depth lesson on artistic license in the theater before you go. I did not, so I spent a good portion of the first act dealing with, “Why is Piggie wearing a Minnie Mouse dress?” and “Is there a pig? You said there would be a pig.” (Not seeing an actual pig was also mentioned about 13 times on the way home.)
Elephant and Piggie’s “We are in a Play!” features Jacob Valleroy as Gerald theElephant and Corynne Wagener as Piggie. Other casting includes Sarah Summerwell as a Squirrelle, Kimmi Johnson as Dog and Squirrelle, and Austin Ryan Hunt as Penguin andSquirrelle. The show runs through May 7th, with an ASL translated show on April 30. Educators, be sure to check out the phenomenal (and free!) curriculum guide at http://www.orlandoshakes.org/pdfs/curriculum-guides/15-16/Elephant%20and%20Piggie%20CG.pdf