Monday, June 29, 2015

The Lorax in Black Light

 One day in April we were at the store getting some art supplies when Fynn saw the book, The Lorax for sale and was very interested. We always love to encourage reading, especially since we stopped forcing Fynn to read, so we decided to get it for him & Rowan. We had also been watching the Lorax movie and cartoon.

Flash backwards to a couple weeks before, when we had the opportunity to see Dino-Light by Lightwire Theater at the Lincoln Center. It was a stunning production with puppets made entirely from LED lights. Magical images roamed the stage, and, amazingly both my kids lasted through the whole show and loved it. Fynn was trying to think of how to apply what he saw to the Planet Shows he'd been making, and that reminded me of the little experience I'd had with black light.

So we went on Craigslist and bought a black light. And we bought florescent poster board to cut out our black light reactive planets. We made some masterpieces. And it was really fun to see what sort of things showed up in black light.
Note Earth sitting on top of Fynn's spectacular Jupiter
We had no blue, so we used white, which looks blue under black light
All Rowan's planets have faces and all Fynn's don't
 So we made a plethora of florescent planets. And somehow I got the idea to see if the kids wanted to do a play. A play of The Lorax in black light. And they said they did.

  Most kids can go to a typical school, and can practice parts for the Spring Play, and act out their parts when the time comes. But you need to understand what a big deal this is for my kids. They really can't follow directions, or take direction for that matter, and they have no concept of working hard for something that probably won't happen today. We really really practice Child-Led-Learning almost exclusively, because it's the only way my kids will learn. So, imagine, we could possibly do tons of work on this play, and, the night we put it on, the kids might want to bounce on the bed instead. So I tried to come up with a plan that would make our play most likely to succeed, because I really wanted to teach them this something new.

 #1. I asked them if they wanted to do it, and they said "yes".
 #2. I tried to make the preparations as un-tedious as possible. Most of the props I worked on while the kids were having their quiet time, but some of them we worked on together. Actually, Rowan woke up from his nap when I was painting Truffula Trees, and he wanted to paint one too. So one of our Truffulas doesn't really glow because it doesn't have much paint on it, but that's okay!
#3. I had to shoot for a perfect balance between ABSOLUTELY NO PRESSURE and trying to push them/ encourage them to do a little bit more.

 Basically I had to do the impossible. (Do you see the kind of stress I'm under? The ridiculous Paradox I live in daily...)

 So we prepared the props as quickly as possible, and every afternoon I would have the new props for that day laid out where the kids could find them, and it was like a new surprise for them, every day. I hung up a black cloth at the back of the kitchen, and that was our "stage" and the kids would be allowed to play with the props however they wanted within reason. I had gone through the book, and marked in my mind which parts to use in the script and which to leave out; I wanted it to be short enough that the kids wouldn't get bored, yet long enough to contain a complete story line. We started with "Way back in the days when the grass was still green..." just the part where the Once-ler was telling his story. And we cut out a few other paragraphs we didn't need.

 For our props we had: 3 big Truffula trees and lots of little ones, a cutout of the Lorax on posterboard, 3 barbaloot cutouts, 3 swamee swan cutouts, 3 hummingfish cutouts, a green paper axe (the most coveted prop), a pompom for a Truffula tuft, a scrap of orange fabric (THNEED), florescent paper money, glow golf ball (seed), the green Once-ler gloves, polyester stuffing (clouds), and "UNLESS" rock cutout.

 In the evenings after dinner it was dark enough to rehearse in black light. We turned out the lights and set the stage with Truffula Trees. The kids played with the props, and mostly tried to act out the story while I read the script. We had been reading the book and watching the movies daily, so it was becoming very familiar to us all. I really had no idea what the play would look like other than that, so I  just kept doing the same things, waiting to see what would unfold.

After a few days of playing with props and listening to lines, Fynn announced that he was going to be the Once-ler, and shortly after that, Rowan said he would be the Lorax. Well! Assigned parts was more than I had hoped for, so we were on the right track!

I painted some gloves florescent green, and those were Fynn's Once-ler costume. I showed him how to talk with his hands so it would look good on stage, but I didn't know he was actually paying attention. He even recited his lines a few times. It was great!

But then Fynn seemed to lose interest and after dinner, Rowan was the one reciting lines while Fynn played other games. Rowan recited the Lorax's lines AND the Once-ler's lines and even lines I had left out! He was amazing.

I got to the point where I felt like we had enough props to keep the story going. I was trying to decide whether the kids could handle an actual showing or not. Should we invite all our friends? Should we sell tickets? Should we give out snacks? Whatever we did, we should do it soon, at the kids' peak moment of involvement.

It was Wednesday, and tomorrow, Thursday, would be family dinner night. I knew just what to do. I asked Grandma & Grandpa  if they would come to our house for a change, for a showing of The Lorax. So they were our audience. Our only audience.

Rowan cutting out his Truffula Tuft
I was blown away by what happened. There was energy in the air. The kids both said their lines, and manipulated the props. Grandma & Grandpa oohed and awed. Fynn actually took over a bunch of lines that he had never said before, and I let him. (I was used to almost running the show by myself!) And they both ad-libbed a ton, which they'd never done before. At the very end, Fynn said his big Once-ler line, and used his hands just like I had shown him. Then he said "Catch!" and tossed a Truffula seed out into the audience. And that was that. They had put on a show.


1 comment:

Debbie Wichman said...

"It was one of the best shows I ever saw!"-review by Grandma