“Make no mistake there is a lot packed into this show.” – Family Blogger Julie

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Do you remember the world(s) you created in your childhood bedroom? I had a play kitchen that was my own kitchen in my own house. I made my mother knock before entering my “house” for a while. During my parent’s divorce, I once arranged my blankets into a big nest, like Big Bird had on Sesame Street.

Then there was the period when I categorized my stuffed animals according to species. Why did no one notice I might be a little “too organized” for a child? Truth is parents are busy and distracted, even when their children are hurting. Watching Interrupting Vanessa I cringed a little when Vanessa mimics her mom being too busy to indulge her daughter’s imaginative play.  I cringed a lot when Vanessa’s mom calls her treasures, “a pile of junk.” I resolved immediately to lift my head when my children are speaking to me. I will endeavor not to make a fuss over the piles of Legos that cover the floor in my son’s room or the heaps of doll clothes on my daughter’s floor.

Vanessa’s room lets us into her mind. Her dad is there, just hanging out, reading the paper, and telling jokes, just as he used to do before he died a year ago. Since that time, Vanessa has withdrawn into the safety of her room and her imagination. Inside her room is everything she needs: costumes and props she uses to embellish her fanciful stories, experiments and inventions, and even a forbidden chocolate cupcake.

When Vanessa’s mom invites Timmy Fibbins over for a playdate Vanessa’s comfortable existence is set on edge. Timmy is the awkward kid you remember from your own school days. Today we might wonder if he is on the autism spectrum.

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I have shared many Childsplay performances with my children. One of the things I like best is that productions are multi-layered. Young children always enjoy the zany antics and colorful costumes of the characters on stage.  Depending on age and maturity, some will notice deeper themes. Childsplay productions are always thought provoking for the adults in the audience.  Make sure to grab a copy Questions for the Ride Home at the end of the show. This is a great way to help everyone explore the show on a deeper level.

Interrupting Vanessa is a short play; running time is less than one hour. Make no mistake there is a lot packed into this show. The talented cast conveys themes of loss, friendship, and being different. As with all productions at Childsplay, there is a short Q&A at the end. Fortunately, for us, the Prop Master and the Director were in the audience providing extra insight into all the components of a successful show. My 11 year old really liked Interrupting Vanessa. He made a beeline for the stage at the end when the audience is welcome up to meet the cast. I looked up to see that he had pulled one of his own treasures out of his pocket to show the cast: a Lego mini-figure. The next time I peer into his room, I will wonder what sort of wondrous world he is imagining in there.

BY: Family2Family Blogger, Julie

 

“…if the purpose of theater is to make you feel then The Yellow Boat accomplished that.”

There’s a notion that we choose our parents. As The Yellow Boat begins, the audience witnesses Benjamin (Rudy Ramirez) choose his parents (Katie McFadzen and Kyle Sorrell). It’s easy to see why; he chooses two solid, loving ones who lavish attention on their only child, fully embracing his active imagination and artistic gift.

Family Blogger
I took my husband, Dave, and our children Landen (10) and Caroline (8) to see The Yellow Boat yesterday. Recommended for ages 7+, the audience was decidedly adult, likely, because this was heavier fare than the productions we expect from Childsplay. I did not share the subject matter of The Yellow Boat with my family ahead of time.

Both children enjoyed the early scenes highlighting Benjamin’s high energy and creative spirit. At one point Landen leaned over and said, “I like this.”

Early on, we learn that Benjamin was born with hemophilia. We witness his parents try to maintain normalcy for their child while protecting him. Most parents can relate to the comical scene where Benjamin’s parents seek out the best school for him.

Concern sets in, as Benjamin is increasingly fatigued. No one knows why and poor Benjamin is subjected to a battery of tests and an array of pokes and prodding. The audience and Benjamin’s parents soon learn that Benjamin tests positive for the virus that causes AIDS. Set in the early 1980’s, a time we knew little about AIDS and fear was at an all-time high. Abandoned by their friends, the trio becomes isolated and Benjamin withdraws. His frightened mother forbids Eddy, Benjamin’s best friend, from seeing him. Soon school is a distant memory and Benjamin spends his days and nights confined to a hospital bed while doctors search for a cure.

The one bright spot being the aptly named, Joy (Debra K. Stevens), who is not a medical doctor but the Wellness Specialist tasked with finding “the part that works.” This role struck me as a part Robin Williams would have relished. Stevens indeed brought joy to the stage and to Benjamin with her backpack full of tricks designed to help her patients process their feelings.

As Benjamin’s condition worsens, you can’t help but imagine yourself or your child in a similar position. At this point, Landen leaned over and said, “I hate this.”

The aforementioned Eddy eventually does come to the hospital. He is full of questions. Are you afraid? Are you in pain? Do you cry? What’s it like to know? He asks the questions we all have surrounding death.

As The Yellow Boat sets sail, you can hear the sniffles in the audience. As the play ends, the actors come to the front of the stage and a few have misty eyes. One can’t help but feel the impact of this story of love and life and death.

As we exited, Caroline said, “I almost cried because I think he died.” I told her he had indeed died and we all commented on how sad that was. My children are too young to know what AIDS is, Landen asked and we told him in the car. Dave led the kids in a conversation about the different kinds of theater experiences. We all agreed we liked musicals better but if the purpose of theater is to make you feel then The Yellow Boat accomplished that. As Dave said, “it was life.”