An Unconventional Family Bonded by a Dog: Childsplay’s “Super Cowgirl and Mighty Miracle”

supercowgirlkids

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!”

Cory_Miracle_Grandma

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!

Related:  adopt a friend and get a free ticket: childsplay teams up with the arizona animal welfare league

 

Kristen
Mom Blogger

Advertisements

A Delightful Family Day with Childsplay and The Velveteen Rabbit

When you were a child, which of your stuffed animals was “real”?

I remember my special relationship with “Dancing Bunny,” who was named that because it was printed across his chest until it was loved off. He started out with erect ears, and was rather stout, even though he was a professional dancer. He had open fluff surgery–twice–and was squished into a suitcase for all family adventures. He is now protected in a box in the garage, his sticker eyes halfway peeled off, much thinner, and more grayish and flat-coated than fluffy white. My best childhood companions were animals, and he was just as real to me as any of them.

velveteenrabit

This memory came to the surface when my family attended a spectacular Childsplay production of “The Velveteen Rabbit” this past weekend. Our family had heard that Childsplay productions were fabulous, but we’d never been, partially due to the fact that my kids went berserk during the last live production we tried to attend, and we had to leave during intermission.

“The Velveteen Rabbit” is a sweet holiday tale based on Margery Williams’ classic children’s book. It is perfect for the holidays because it is all about love and the magic of imagination–the possibility of the impossible. Childsplay is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary of the production that has become a holiday tradition for so many and will, now, for us.

I loved it, as did my husband (shhh, don’t tell), but, more importantly, it captivated my kids, Porter (6) and Campbell (4) as they sat riveted in their theater-provided booster seats. I truly couldn’t believe that they stayed still and engaged throughout the entire performance. There were no ill-timed trips to the restroom or begging for snacks. They simply loved it. I loved watching their smiles just as much as I enjoyed watching the play!
The actors were fabulous. I anticipated that they might be sub-par, seeing as this was a theater company geared toward kids, but they were as professional as I’ve ever seen. Kaleena Newman as the boy and Eric Boudreau as Nana carried the “human” aspect of the show and captivated the audience, young and old alike. Despite playing roles as the opposite genders, they were completely believable–what talents!

large-bedflying

The puppeteers and set interacted in a way that made the magic of the story come to life. Our favorite part–SPOILER ALERT–was when the boy and the Velveteen Rabbit were pretending to be pilots. The nursery bed sprouted a propeller, emitted smoke, and even lifted right up off the stage! “Whoa!” said Porter, amazed. Who knew such a quiet, sweet story could be so exciting?

After the actors took their final bows, they talked to the audience about the production and gave the children a chance to answer questions about what they like to pretend to be when they are playing. Porter said “a superhero!” They gave the children the opportunity to ask any question they wanted about the production. Some asked about how the toys moved, and some asked about the story. What a great chance for these new theater-goers to connect with the actors and better understand all that goes into a professional live production. The actors even invited the children to come up to the stage and meet them!

wigglesout
The fun spilled out into the lobby and beyond, and the Tempe Center for the Arts was the perfect venue. The kids had a chance to write to the Nursery Fairy about which toy they would love to have come alive. There was a small gift-shop at which you could purchase books and other Velveteen Rabbit souvenirs. There is an outdoor area overlooking Tempe beach, so the kids could run around and get their wiggles out before and after the show. There is an art gallery to explore, and an outdoor sculpture garden to round out the experience.

If you are looking for a unique holiday event for the whole family, I would highly recommend Childsplay’s production of “The Velveteen Rabbit,” which runs on weekends through December 22nd.

Kristen
Mom Blogger