Collaboration with the Provo Library

By Tara Nicole Haas

Hello Everyone! The Selfish Giant is now underway and is being very well received from our audiences. Did you know that there is a reason we chose The Selfish Giant to be produced this time of year? Every year for the spring show, the BYU Theatre and Media Arts department teams up with the Provo Library to produce a children’s story derived from a book. After a story is picked, the library distributes little bookmarks throughout the library and in nearby schools. The bookmarks list information about the performances and include an offer for two free tickets to the show if a student reads the chosen story, and possibly more. In this case, if the student reads The Selfish Giant, as well as one other fairy tale book from the library, the student will be given free tickets.

This is a wonderful collaboration as it encourages students to read, as well as gives them an opportunity to experience a piece of theatre first hand. On top of this, there are also special workshops provided for children before each matinee show time. These offer a fun opportunity for children, as well as great learning experiences. As a lover and supporter of the arts, I believe teaching the children in our community about the arts is very important. This is what will help them the arts to ultimately grow and flourish, and thus benefits our community as a whole. We at BYU in the Theatre and Media Arts department are very grateful for this significant collaboration!

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Opening Week is Here!

By Tara Nicole Haas

In honor of opening night last Friday, I wanted to share this sneak peek video clip and some photos to inform and hopefully excite everyone to come see this remarkable show! Although there have been various adaptations of “The Selfish Giant” throughout the years since it was published in 1888, there have been no notable theatre adaptations. We are confidant that this adaptation will impress. With the use of puppetry, stilt walking, projections, and the stunning design elements that are incorporated, there is plenty for everyone of all ages to enjoy. “The Selfish Giant” is much more than spectacle though- it is a touching story with a surprisingly heartwarming message of love and redemption. I sincerely hope you enjoy this video, and come to see more in our production of “The Selfish Giant.”

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Working with the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Company

By Tara Nicole Haas

A few weeks ago, our cast and crew were able to have the amazing opportunity to work with the renowned Bristol Old Vic Theatre company from England. The Bristol Old Vic recently mounted a production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in association with Handspring Puppet Company. The two companies collaborated to create a phenomenal production that strongly utilized puppets. View these clips for a glimpse into their production and puppetry:

We were lucky enough to have The Bristol Old Vic visit BYU, and they held workshops where they specifically worked with The Selfish Giant cast and puppeteers. Of course everyone was very receptive, and jumped at the opportunity to learn from these professionals. The company members worked with us for many hours, showing our puppeteers how to more easily manipulate their puppets, while making them become more life-like and intriguing. We learned many ways we could improve our puppets and perfect what we already had. Our cast and crew are working hard to master their puppet skills in all areas (building, manipulating, realism, etc. …) to create a truly magical show that everyone will enjoy. We owe a lot to the Bristol Old Vic, as they were a great inspiration and help to our show. We are very excited about the progress we’ve made and our puppets are becoming more delightful every day. Below are pictures from the workshops with members of our cast working with the professional Bristol Old Vic Company:

Insight into the Inspiration for our Puppets (Part 2)

By Tara Nicole Haas

In my last post, I talked about some of the puppet companies that have inspired our puppet making for The Selfish Giant.  Here are a few more who we would like to share!

Blind Summit:

“17 years ago Blind Summit started with two guys, one puppet and one story. There was no adult puppetry scene in the UK. There was no Lion King, Avenue Q or War Horse… no one wanted to do puppetry, or to watch it! Since then we have created 30 productions, trained 100 artists and even directed the puppetry in the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Last year our puppets were seen by over 330,000 people.”
Mark Down – Artistic Director

• Puppetry innovators who are subverting and reinventing the ancient Japanese art form of Bunraku puppetry for contemporary worldwide audiences.
• They believe that at a time when theatre is so under threat from the proliferation of new media, puppetry is one of the areas which offers a unique, live experience for audiences. They see puppetry as a radical part of the reinvention of theatre in our time.
• Their work aims to challenge people’s attitudes towards puppetry. Their puppets are modern and shows tackle contemporary issues that concern them.

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Puss in Boots

Photo by Richard Termine © 2010. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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Faeries

Photo credit not found © 2008. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Handspring Puppet Company:

• Founded in 1981 and based in Cape Town, South Africa, the company provides an artistic home and professional base for a core group of leading puppetry artists, performers, designers, theatre artists and technicians. Handspring’s work has been presented in more than 30 countries around the world.
• The company is widely recognized as South Africa’s pre-eminent puppet theatre company. The company’s work spans three decades of creating theatre for adults and children. Recently, Handspring has been established as one of the most important puppet companies in the world.
• Handspring has won several awards, including the 2011 special Tony award for their development of the puppets for Warhorse.
• Africa has a rich culture involving puppetry, and Handspring is dedicated to keeping it alive by creating many different forms and types of puppet performance.
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Warhorse

Photo by Eva Rinaldi ©2013. Some rights reserved

Insight into the Inspiration for our Puppets (Part One)

By Tara Nicole Haas

In our production of The Selfish Giant, we are using many puppets, including a carnival sized puppet for our main character, the giant. Developing the giant has been a fascinating process, and our directors have pulled inspiration from many different professional companies from all around the world. Below are two of the most notable and influential puppet companies researched for our production. Look for a blog post next week for two more professional companies.

Bread and Puppet Theater:

• A politically radical puppet theater active since the 1960s and is currently based in Glover, Vermont. The name Bread & Puppet is derived from the theater’s practice of sharing its own fresh bread, served for free, with the audience of each performance as a means of creating community, and from its central principle that art should be as basic to life as bread.
• The Bread and Puppet Theater commonly participates in parades including Fourth of July celebrations, notably in Cabot, Vermont.
• Bread and Puppet is often remembered as a central part of the political spectacle of the time, as its enormous puppets (often ten to fifteen feet tall) were a fixture of many demonstrations.
• The Bread & Puppet Theater has received National Endowment for the Arts grants and numerous awards from the Puppeteers of America and other organizations.
• Bread and Puppet uses their art for specific political causes and activism – specific causes over the years have been:

  • Anti-war
  • To shut down Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant
  • Support for Daniel Ortega’s Sandinistas after a junta had taken over Nicaragua in 1979
  • The Zapatista Uprising of 1994
  • The MOVE Organization
  • Opposition to registering for the draft
  • Opposition to the World Trade Organization

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Photo by Walter S. Wantman, ©1980’s. Some rights reserved.

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Photo by Jared C. Benedict, ©2003. Some rights reserved.

In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre:

A puppet company from Minneapolis, Minnesota, that began in 1973. The company utilizes large, carnival puppets and has written and performed scores of full-length puppet plays, performed throughout the US, Canada, Korea and Haiti, and toured the Mississippi River from end to end. They are best known for their annual May Day Parade and Ceremony that is seen by as many as 35,000 people each year.
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Image Courtesy of In the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theatre in Minneapolis

Photo credit not found ©2014. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

For more images and information about the company, please visit http://hobt.org/performances/.

 

Original Story: The Selfish Giant

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by Oscar Wilde

[Editor’s Note: For those of you unfamiliar with the original story of The Selfish Giant, please enjoy the following tale before coming to see the show!]

Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant’s garden.

It was a large lovely garden, with soft green grass. Here and there over the grass stood beautiful flowers like stars, and there were twelve peach-trees that in the spring-time broke out into delicate blossoms of pink and pearl, and in the autumn bore rich fruit. The birds sat on the trees and sang so sweetly that the children used to stop their games in order to listen to them. ‘How happy we are here!’ they cried to each other.

One day the Giant came back. He had been to visit his friend the Cornish ogre, and had stayed with him for seven years. After the seven years were over he had said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determined to return to his own castle. When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

‘What are you doing here?’ he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.

‘My own garden is my own garden,’ said the Giant; ‘any one can understand that, and I will allow nobody to play in it but myself.’ So he built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.

TRESPASSERS
WILL BE
PROSECUTED

He was a very selfish Giant.

The poor children had now nowhere to play. They tried to play on the road, but the road was very dusty and full of hard stones, and they did not like it. They used to wander round the high wall when their lessons were over, and talk about the beautiful garden inside.

‘How happy we were there,’ they said to each other.

Then the Spring came, and all over the country there were little blossoms and little birds. Only in the garden of the Selfish Giant it was still Winter. The birds did not care to sing in it as there were no children, and the trees forgot to blossom. Once a beautiful flower put its head out from the grass, but when it saw the notice-board it was so sorry for the children that it slipped back into the ground again, and went off to sleep. The only people who were pleased were the Snow and the Frost. ‘Spring has forgotten this garden,’ they cried, ‘so we will live here all the year round.’ The Snow covered up the grass with her great white cloak, and the Frost painted all the trees silver. Then they invited the North Wind to stay with them, and he came. He was wrapped in furs, and he roared all day about the garden, and blew the chimney-pots down. ‘This is a delightful spot,’ he said, ‘we must ask the Hail on a visit.’ So the Hail came. Every day for three hours he rattled on the roof of the castle till he broke most of the slates, and then he ran round and round the garden as fast as he could go. He was dressed in grey, and his breath was like ice.

‘I cannot understand why the Spring is so late in coming,’ said the Selfish Giant, as he sat at the window and looked out at his cold white garden; ‘I hope there will be a change in the weather.’

But the Spring never came, nor the Summer. The Autumn gave golden fruit to every garden, but to the Giant’s garden she gave none. ‘He is too selfish,’ she said. So it was always Winter there, and the North Wind, and the Hail, and the Frost, and the Snow danced about through the trees.

One morning the Giant was lying awake in bed when he heard some lovely music. It sounded so sweet to his ears that he thought it must be the King’s musicians passing by. It was really only a little linnet singing outside his window, but it was so long since he had heard a bird sing in his garden that it seemed to him to be the most beautiful music in the world. Then the Hail stopped dancing over his head, and the North Wind ceased roaring, and a delicious perfume came to him through the open casement. ‘I believe the Spring has come at last,’ said the Giant; and he jumped out of bed and looked out.

What did he see?

He saw a most wonderful sight. Through a little hole in the wall the children had crept in, and they were sitting in the branches of the trees. In every tree that he could see there was a little child. And the trees were so glad to have the children back again that they had covered themselves with blossoms, and were waving their arms gently above the children’s heads. The birds were flying about and twittering with delight, and the flowers were looking up through the green grass and laughing. It was a lovely scene, only in one corner it was still Winter. It was the farthest corner of the garden, and in it was standing a little boy. He was so small that he could not reach up to the branches of the tree, and he was wandering all round it, crying bitterly. The poor tree was still quite covered with frost and snow, and the North Wind was blowing and roaring above it. ‘Climb up! little boy,’ said the Tree, and it bent its branches down as low as it could; but the little boy was too tiny.

And the Giant’s heart melted as he looked out. ‘How selfish I have been!’ he said; ‘now I know why the Spring would not come here. I will put that poor little boy on the top of the tree, and then I will knock down the wall, and my garden shall be the children’s playground for ever and ever.’ He was really very sorry for what he had done.

So he crept downstairs and opened the front door quite softly, and went out into the garden. But when the children saw him they were so frightened that they all ran away, and the garden became Winter again. Only the little boy did not run, for his eyes were so full of tears that he died not see the Giant coming. And the Giant stole up behind him and took him gently in his hand, and put him up into the tree. And the tree broke at once into blossom, and the birds came and sang on it, and the little boy stretched out his two arms and flung them round the Giant’s neck, and kissed him. And the other children, when they saw that the Giant was not wicked any longer, came running back, and with them came the Spring. ‘It is your garden now, little children,’ said the Giant, and he took a great axe and knocked down the wall. And when the people were gong to market at twelve o’clock they found the Giant playing with the children in the most beautiful garden they had ever seen.

All day long they played, and in the evening they came to the Giant to bid him good-bye.

‘But where is your little companion?’ he said: ‘the boy I put into the tree.’ The Giant loved him the best because he had kissed him.

‘We don’t know,’ answered the children; ‘he has gone away.’

‘You must tell him to be sure and come here to-morrow,’ said the Giant. But the children said that they did not know where he lived, and had never seen him before; and the Giant felt very sad.

Every afternoon, when school was over, the children came and played with the Giant. But the little boy whom the Giant loved was never seen again. The Giant was very kind to all the children, yet he longed for his first little friend, and often spoke of him. ‘How I would like to see him!’ he used to say.

Years went over, and the Giant grew very old and feeble. He could not play about any more, so he sat in a huge armchair, and watched the children at their games, and admired his garden. ‘I have many beautiful flowers,’ he said; ‘but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.’

One winter morning he looked out of his window as he was dressing. He did not hate the Winter now, for he knew that it was merely the Spring asleep, and that the flowers were resting.

Suddenly he rubbed his eyes in wonder, and looked and looked. It certainly was a marvellous sight. In the farthest corner of the garden was a tree quite covered with lovely white blossoms. Its branches were all golden, and silver fruit hung down from them, and underneath it stood the little boy he had loved.

Downstairs ran the Giant in great joy, and out into the garden. He hastened across the grass, and came near to the child. And when he came quite close his face grew red with anger, and he said, ‘Who hath dared to wound thee?’ For on the palms of the child’s hands were the prints of two nails, and the prints of two nails were on the little feet.

‘Who hath dared to wound thee?’ cried the Giant; ‘tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.’

‘Nay!’ answered the child; ‘but these are the wounds of Love.’

‘Who art thou?’ said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.

And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, ‘You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.’

And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.

Cymbeline Post-Mortem

by Nicholas E. Sheets, dramaturg

Now that the production crew held their post-mortem, Cymbeline is officially over. What a fun ride this has been, especially as you have interacted with the show via the 4thWALL, in schools, at BYU and the many other locations we took this show. I hope you see how committed we are to bringing quality theater to our community and I personally hope you felt that we tried hard to help your voice be heard through blog postings, interacting with the actors and all the wonderful feedback we’ve received.

In our post-mortems at BYU we discuss the several aspects we felt were challenging and engaging, and then provide our thoughts as to what could make our shows even better next year. In these meetings we have various faculty members who oversaw us students, and after they discuss their viewpoints, we join them at the table. This is a great opportunity to reflect on the past show and everything we went through to provide quality theater experiences to our community.

As dramaturg, I was especially grateful to create teachers packets for the schools to use before we arrived. It was interesting to tackle Common Core Standards as I looked for ways to legitimize my material for an elementary/middle-school classroom. I also wanted students to see how much fun theater can be. I couldn’t have done any of this without help from the director, Teresa Love. Also, I was super grateful to see the autograph sections of the study guide used to such a great extent that many children were able to approach the actors and find inspiration in theater. My time at BYU is now at an end, but I hope you will always know that BYU’s Theater for Young Audiences, as well as all future dramaturgs, are committed to you, the community.

Thank you again,

Nicholas E. Sheets

Meet Teresa Love – The Adapter of THE SELFISH GIANT

by Tara Haas, dramaturg

Playwright Teresa Love

Playwright Teresa Love

Playwright/Adapter Teresa Love graciously agreed to let me conduct an interview with her for our readers. Take a look to find out more about her, as well as her insight into the project.

Tara: The Selfish Giant is not your first adaptation for BYU. What others have you done?

Teresa: I’ve adapted Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, The Merchant of Venice, and Cymbeline for BYU’s Young Company. I also directed my adaptation of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow for Young Company. I was one of the adapters of A Wrinkle in Time which premiered here at BYU last spring. Over the years I’ve adapted many, many books and tales for the stage, mostly for young audiences. Some of my favorites are Treasure Island, Gulliver’s Travels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Christmas Carol.

Tara: What do you love about adapting stories for the stage?

Teresa: Getting at what I think is the heart of a good story and envisioning how I can engage an audience so they can be as excited about it as I am is what catches my fancy. Nothing pleases me more than when, post show, a young person comes up, tugs on my coat and says “That was cool! Where do I get the book?”

Tara: How did you become interested in doing adaptations?

Teresa:Out of necessity! In the early part of my directing career I felt there were few really excellent plays for young audiences. So I found some good stories and had at it. Now there are many good playwrights who focus on young people and families. But in the meantime I’ve written about 50 plays, mostly adaptations.

Tara: Have you written any original plays?

Teresa: Yes, often focusing on historical events. Which is ironic because to understand history we frequently adapt it to narrative form, so there I am, right back with a good story or stories to tell.

Tara: What were particular challenges with The Selfish Giant?

Teresa: Well, it’s not very long, and there is no hint about why the Giant is selfish. We have to care about that problem if we’re going to sit in the dark for an hour together. I felt I needed to give the Giant some back story, yet still honor Oscar Wilde’s ideas. I had to read and re-read all his other fairytales before I could move forward confidently.

Tara: What do you love about The Selfish Giant?

Teresa: 1. The imagery is so beautiful it just tickles my brain.
2. It’s a story of repentance and forgiveness, which is a classic theme, close to my heart.
3. I truly believe the world is more delightfully Spring-like when children are included, considered and listened to, something the Giant finally learns.

Tara: What do you hope audience members gain from viewing the play?

Teresa: I hope they will look at their friendships differently, and cherish them more. I hope that they will choose kindness over rudeness. I hope that they will sense the whisperings of the religious truths I think Wilde hoped to communicate.
I hope they will think “What a good story!” I hope they will tell their own stories.

Tara: How did you first become interested in theatre?

Teresa: I was a book worm first, a lover of story. When I was a teenager we moved near to a professional summerstock acting company, and my eyes were opened to that most dynamic way to tell stories: theatre. But I never left my first love of simple storytelling behind. In fact I teach storytelling classes.

Tara: What do you love most about theatre?

Teresa: It happens right here, right now in a way that has never happened before and will never happen again. And that’s because while the play may be “set,” the people who make up the audience is always different. I love the “conversation”, the back and forth between the actors and the audience and how that changes every performance.

Tara: What is your family like?

Teresa: My husband was a circus/variety artist for 25 years, but is now an elementary teacher. Our married daughter is approaching college graduation. She’s still of great lover of children’s literature and we two can go on and on about it for hours. Our son, Timothy, is ten years old and loves stories too. His favorites are Dr. Who, Star Wars and Hugo Cabret.

Tara: What do you do in your spare time?

Teresa: You mean time I carve out between projects? I read or watch stories, of course! My idea of heaven is a book and blanket underneath a tree in the summertime. Or on the beach! We live in Southern California for 25 years, so we love the beach. And the Dodgers. And the Lakers.

Tara: Where did you attend school?

Teresa: My family moved frequently. I went to 12 different schools by the time I graduated from high -school. I did my undergraduate work here at BYU.

Final Thoughts from ‘A Man for All Seasons’

by Adam White, dramaturg

Well, the show is closed, the stage is packed up, and our production crew and actors are off to their next projects; A Man for All Seasons has officially concluded.

It has been a pleasure being the dramaturg for this production. I’ve learned quite a bit about dramaturgy, the life and times of Sir Thomas More, and, well, I couldn’t quite get a way without learning some life lessons too. I learned that simple truly is best and that you have to ‘meet people where they are at,’ to teach and communicate ideas effectively. Overall, it’s been an educational and challenging experience for me, and I feel proud for having done it. I’ve never been on a production team before this show, and I can’t wait for my next opportunity!

As we part ways, I leave you all with one final segment of interviews with BYU English professors Rick Duerden and Brandie Siegfried. May their observations inspire you to think more critically and deeply of history and to dive into the crucial stories the inform our society and culture today:

Audience Dramaturgy: Your Turn to Ask Questions about PRIDE AND PREJUDICE

By Anne Flinders

One of the traditions at BYU theatre productions is the weekly Thursday night post-show discussion. The post-show discussion is always a great way to get a behind-the-scenes peak at how a play is put together. Any audience members who choose to do so are invited to remain after a play to visit with the cast members and designers and ask them questions about their work.

Director Barta Heiner and playwright Melissa Leilani Larson enjoy a moment during a post-show discussion following a performance of BYU's PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Director Barta Heiner and playwright Melissa Leilani Larson enjoy a moment during a post-show discussion following a performance of BYU’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

Last week the first post-show discussion was held for PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and there was a great turnout. The event was moderated by the production dramaturg, Anne Flinders. Members of the audience asked the cast questions about things like acting choices, their preparation for playing particular characters, and their training in manners and customs for the period and the society the play represents. The designers were asked about their research and choices for their work. Even the audience was asked a few questions about their engagement with the play, and had an opportunity to share bits their experience with this new production with the cast and crew.

As a special treat, Thursday’s post-show discussion included an appearance by the playwright, Melissa Leilani Larson, and the director, Barta Heiner. Audience members took advantage of the opportunity to ask these women about their work, and got some interesting insight into the collaborative process of producing a new work of theatre.

A final post-show discussion is scheduled for Thursday, April 3rd, following curtain call, and will be moderated by BYU’s dramaturgy specialist, Janine Sobeck. Audience members are welcome to stay after the show, and those who may have already seen the play are also invited to return and join in.

We are nearing the close of the run of Brigham Young University’s world premiere of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE adapted by Melissa Leilani Larson. The play is sold out. Stand-by tickets may still be available minutes prior to curtain, but there is no guarantee.