Monday, March 31, 2008

Guest Reviewer Ema and According to Coyote

Behind the Curtain is pleased to introduce our newest guest reviewer. Ema M was referred to us by the fine folks at Hugo House, and was kind enough to review our production of According to Coyote.

Maybe there is a moral intended in these Native American stories, but that is not the primary purpose intended in telling them; the purpose is to transfer these old stories and customs to the next generation. With this aim in mind, According to Coyote succeeds from the first story. Gene Tagaban and Sheila Daniels, director, present these stories in a fresh way that is undeniably sassy and engaging.

The play uses language that kids can relate to; it probably wasn’t used in lodges generations ago, but the language used then was contemporary for its time. The use of modern language made the stories more accessible, along with the clever costuming. The costume change is a great reflection of the entire play's progression; Tagaban enters in jeans and a black t-shirt with more traditional items scattered around the stage. As the play progresses he puts this traditional grab on as part of the story until by the end he’s in full costume. That’s how we’re reeled in - one piece at a time, in a way that makes these stories familiar, even if they aren’t.

The play is a playful interpretation of the legends of Coyote, updating but never forgetting the roots these stories came from. It’s a performance that will coax kids into a deeper cultural experience and equally importantly, make them laugh. One of the things that works best about According to Coyote’s approach is the fact that the kids got the jokes - the constant giggling was testament enough.

According to Coyote runs through May 11 in the Eve Alvord Theatre at Seattle Children's Theatre.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

SCT's New Season!

We'll be officially unveiling our 2008-09 season on our website tomorrow, but if you'd like a sneak preview, check out today's Seattle Times.

It is going to be a fuuuuuuun year.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Have you ever...?

The suggestion for this blog post comes from the mother of our first guest reviewer. She asked us to pose this question to the cast of The Hundred Dresses, which she didn't have the chance to ask during the post-play talkback:

Have you ever found yourself in a position like Maddie or Peggy or Wanda?

Intrepid actor Sarah Harlett, playing Peggy in the play, was brave enough to share her answer.

We asked ourselves this question the first few days of rehearsal. We sat around a table and shared our own experiences from when we were kids. Allison Narver (our wonderful director) described occasions in her life when she felt like one of these characters. Then she asked us all to share our memories. We all recalled being teased ourselves. We also recounted tales when as kids ourselves we didn't stand up for someone else because we were too scared all of that brutal attention would turn on us. We also had memories of times when we didn't realize we were hurting other kids feelings. When we were bullying kids ourselves. It's part of what makes this play so achingly poignant. We've been there. Chances are we've been ALL of these kids at one time or another.

Allison made it clear that none of these characters in the play were just "bad kids." That we shouldn't be able to write them off so easily. These kids love fun and games. They love to laugh and everything has the possibility to turn into a game. Which on the surface sounds like pretty fun-loving behavior. They create teasing games with nearly everyone in the play. It's a big game of "you're it" and one of the scariest things is to be the brunt of that attention.

These characters are at different points in the development of their "moral compass." When I think that this story was based on actual experiences of the writer, Eleanor Estes, it makes me think even more about my own experiences. What I learned from them, how I learned lessons and the hope that I continue to learn from them.

The Hundred Dresses runs through April 6th.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A few minutes with Gene Tagaban - Part II

As promised, the second installment of our interview with storyteller Gene Tagaban from SCT's production of According to Coyote.

Many thanks to Gene for spending some time with us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A few minutes with Gene Tagaban

Native American storyteller Gene Tagaban stars in our remount of John Kauffman's collection of trickster stories, According to Coyote, opening Friday March 14th and running through May 11th.

Behind the Curtain caught up with Gene last week, and he was kind enough to spend a few minutes talking with us before rehearsal.

Gene had so much to share with us that we decided to break the video into two parts. Tomorrow we'll post Part II. Check back to hear Gene's thoughts on the role and power stories have in teaching us and some of the other projects he's working on.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Activity: Heroes!

In The Hundred Dresses, Maddie wants to be a hero. In her fantasies, she is a superhero, while in her everyday life she struggles to make the heroic choices. In the end, Maddie learns what it means, and what it takes, to be an everyday hero.

This activity, designed by our Drama School, gives participants a way to think about different kinds of heroes, as well as working on listening, imagination, and decision-making skills


Gather all of your participants into a group. If you have a large enough group, you may ask half to do the task while the other half observes, and then switch.

Ask participants to create a frozen picture of a superhero. Gives them about 5 seconds to accomplish the task. The activity leader should reflect on the frozen picture he or she sees – noting shape, level, image, facial expression etc.

Add a layer: ask the participants to think of one word that superhero might say. Tap a few superhero frozen pictures on the shoulder and hear what they say. Try saying the word all together.

Add another layer: ask the participants to think of what power the superhero might use to help people. Tap a few superhero frozen pictures on the shoulder and hear what they say.

Then ask participants to create a frozen picture of an everyday hero (i.e. firefighters, police officers, soldiers, doctors, teachers, parents.) Give them 5 seconds to accomplish the task.

Again, reflect on the frozen picture he or she sees – noting shape, level, image, facial expression etc.

Add a layer: ask the participants to think of one word that the everyday hero might say. Tap a few everyday hero frozen pictures on the shoulder and hear what they say.

This activity works as a great springboard into discussion about different kinds of heroes. Reflect on what qualities make a real life hero. What are the choices, qualities, or characteristics, or personality qualification for a real life hero?

The Hundred Dresses runs through April 6, 2008 at Seattle Children's Theatre.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Welcome Gene Tagaban!

It is a bit tardy, as he's been knocking around the rehearsal rooms for a couple of weeks now, but we wanted to take a moment to welcome and introduce Gene Tagaban, soon to appear on our stage in According to Coyote.

According to Coyote is a collection of Native American trickster lore written by John Kauffman. John, a Nez Perce and the then-Artistic Director of Honolulu Theater for Youth, first brought According to Coyote to SCT in 1989. He passed away the next year.

SCT is proud to have teamed with storyteller Gene Tagaban for this season's remount of According to Coyote. Gene is a gifted storyteller and engaging motivational speaker and educator. You can find out more about Tagaban at his website. And check back here later this week with for a video interview with Gene (if you have a question you'd like Gene to answer, post it in the comments before Wednesday morning).

According to Coyote opens March 14 and runs through May 11 in the Eve Alvord Theatre at Seattle Children's Theatre.