I figured that the littles and I would enjoy any play where one of the main characters is a dog (played by a human), but I didn’t realize how touching and thought-provoking a seemingly simple tale could be. We knew going in that Childsplay’s Super Cowgirl and Mighty Miracle would likely be fantastic. When we saw The Velveteen Rabbit a few months ago, we were blown away. What surprised me about this production was how playwright José Cruz González took serious current social issues and made them approachable for young audiences and how Childsplay’s actors communicated the story in such a way that these beginning theater-goers could “feel.”
Childsplay summarized the play:
When a stray dog appears on the doorstep, it’s love at first sight for six-year-old Cory, and the last straw for Grandma Autumn. Life hasn’t been easy lately for either of these two, facing absent parents and lost homes. But in a delightfully surprising story filled with humor and heart, Super Cowgirl and Mighty Miracle reminds us love makes almost anything possible, even in hard times.
The subject matter couldn’t be more timely.
We had the honor of listening to González speak about the play before it began. He explained how he wanted to tackle current issues that are facing so many in our country. He wanted to illustrate an unconventional family both in terms of multiple generations and in terms of race and culture.
My children (ages five and seven) were quite entertained throughout the performance. There were no untimely bathroom requests or declarations of starvation. They were riveted. They laughed a lot, and felt the tension that some parts of the story required. I enjoyed watching their faces as much as I enjoyed watching the performance. With such complex, sensitive issues being raised I wondered how much my children absorbed. I asked them what the play was about (possible spoilers):
Quotes from my seven-year-old:
• “The girl had to live with her grandma because her mom was dead and her papa had to go to another country to work. They didn’t have a lot of money, so that must have been hard.”
• “I thought it was cool how they went to all the different places and just switched a couple of things on the stage so you could tell where they were.”
• “The girl helped the dog, and the dog helped the girl and her grandma, too, so they became a real family. They all loved each other.”
Quotes from my five-year-old:
• “Love…and family.”
• “The play was about the dog saving the girl’s life just like she saved his life.”
• “The girl and the grandma didn’t get along so well at the beginning, but then they loved each other.”
• “My favorite part was when the grandma stepped in the dog poop!”
I must say, the poop part was pretty funny. There were several points during the show that had the whole audience roaring. Despite–and perhaps partly because of–the hilarious antics, the kids were able to understand that the story was about love and family.
Aside from the fabulous performance that Childsplay put on, I love the fact that they make theater approachable for kids. After the performance, the actors took their traditional bows, but then remained on the stage. They first asked the children in the audience specific questions about the play that made them think how they, as individuals, could relate to the story. Some of the questions required detailed comprehension of the story, and some didn’t, so there were questions for all ages. Everyone had the opportunity to participate. The children then had the chance to ask questions of the actors. The actors were approachable and said “ask us anything!”
My favorite question came from a young man: “How old are you?”
It was clear that Osiris Cuen, who played “Cory,” a six-year-old girl, was nowhere near that age. Yet during the performance, she made us believe she was. “I’m twenty-two,” Cuen told the young man. Carlos A. Lara, who played the dog, reported his age as “twenty-four.” Perhaps we can figure that out in dog years. And Chanel Bragg, who played “Grandma Autumn” was a mere thirty-one! Now I really feel old. It was wonderful to see the children in the audience asking questions that adults would typically take for granted. Not only are the children learning at an early age how to think thoroughly about a production, but adults get to view a live production through the eyes of inquisitive children. How rewarding for all!