Notes from Justine -Three By the Sea
Having seen Three By the Sea two times now in performance, I’ve realized that the gestalt of this combination of stories is an ideal introduction to theatre for children. There are so many things they are being exposed to here: it’s like sneaking vegetables into the dessert mix! While they watch the charming stories they learn to suspend disbelief and see fabric (or umbrellas, or balloons) as water, to decipher intent through behavior, to appreciate the difference an atmosphere can have on how you interpret the individual elements of a play and how to appreciate the rhythm and flow in storytelling, not to mention simply being introduced to the great theatrical tradition of story theatre.
I really find myself enjoying each play within the play for different reasons. Working backwards, I’ll start at the end:
Foghorn Franny is a crowd pleaser. With its modern characters and sharp clear tone, it gets laughs easily while supporting the most complex story and message of the trio. The oldest audience members get a lot out of this one (both adults and tweens) because the subplot about bullying is clearly and dramatically explored and resolved. Everyone in the audience is held tight in the grips of the plot and even the youngest audience members maintain the hush required for the few (I think it’s actually two) brief moments of reflection. Coming last in the running order it is well chosen in its modern language and depiction as it leaves the audience feeling happy and thoroughly entertained at the end.
The second piece, Coyote’s Moon, is ideal for the central role in this production in part due to its simplicity. There’s not a lot of story here and so we are able to just sit back and enjoy the puppetry, lighting, water (umbrella) ballet, and characterizations. We love Lil’ Rabbit, we fear Coyote (a little), we enjoy the lights and the trickery…and …we’re done!
Appropriately, while our audience’s minds are freshest they are presented with the most complex piece. We are asked to immerse ourselves in the world, the otherness of the mythical Ireland of old. We meet characters from the town of Gollerus and enjoy their quirkiness while sensing what a stranger in their midst might experience in such a self-contained environment. The lilting lyrical language pulls us along in the story while the theatrical elements, such as mermaid costume, Shadow Puppet plays, and ongoing bits of business from comic cap-snatching to ominous umbrella-opening, devised by super-creative director Julia Martin, help keep our young audience engaged throughout.
Enjoy the spinach brownies!
Founding Artistic Director