I spent a lovely evening at the theatre Friday, observing “What the North Wind Saw” at Charlie’s school. The play was student written, produced, and acted, with a few staff members in roles as well. Photos from the evening can be found here.
It was an adaptation of three fairy tales, the unifying theme of which was the inclusion of the North Wind. The North Wind was played ably by Nick, with just the amount of grumpy bluster that you would expect from the North Wind.
The first tale, The North Wind, the Pig and the Baboon, is the story of a pig and a baboon whose fighting so irks the North Wind, that he ends up blowing them to different parts of the earth, to stay for all eternity. Basically, the North Wind sends them to their rooms. They deserve it. The baboon was played by Charlie, and therefore, disclaimer, he was my favorite. The pig was played by Eneizah, who was sporting a pig nose and pink pig ears, whilst Charlie was decked in a large baboon mask, and a very purple bottom. Written by Hannah, this one act was simple, and to the point, and started the poor, poor North Wind, already in a very bad mood, off on his long, exhausting day.
Act two was the story of the Lad and the North Wind, and told the poignant tale of young Jack. Jack, (infused with kindness and determination by Mike), a young man clearly devoted to his aging mother (played by able knitter Emily), attempts thrice to procure grain from storage, and each time is thwarted by the blustery North Wind. I must mention that Nick, as the North Wind, seemed very much to enjoy his character’s mission of creating trouble for others for NO REASON AT ALL, and embodied a curmudgeonliness beyond his years. Jack, however, refuses to be daunted by the North Wind, and, when the two come face to face, it becomes quite clear that the North Wind’s gruff exterior belies a kind heart, and a soul which appreciates Jack’s bravery in facing him. The North Wind gives Jack a series of gifts designed to change his lot, which are promptly stolen by a greedy innkeeper and his wife, played with palpable avarice by Jens and Megan. Finally, the North Wind gives Jack a simple stick, played with just the right mix of rigidity, and, when necessary, bendiness, by John III, and all is set right.
The audience then enjoyed a lovely intermission, with refreshments largely provided by Margie and Debbie, I believe, and this writers’ family, pocketed one or two of those delicacies known simply around The New School as “Margie Cookies,” for the road.
The final act was based on a beautiful Scandinavian tale called “East of the Sun West of the Moon” with which I was unfamiliar. East/West tells the story of a poor farmer (John) with a large family (Lucy, Eneizah, Greg) approached by a large white bear (John III, in the less bendy of his two roles) who promises to improve the family’s lot in exchange for the hand of the beautiful Almira (played with aplomb and tinyness by the outstanding Hannah).
As you might have guessed, the bear is, of course, an enchanted prince, Almira’s tragic failure to heed the prince’s warnings leads to the jeopardizing of the breaking of the enchantment. The most horrible consequence ensues, and, the enchanted Prince appears to be doomed to marry the distasteful Troll Princess Yalda.
All is not lost, however, as Almira sets off to locate the castle, located East of the Sun and West of the Moon, in order to disrupt the nuptials and rescue her prince. In her quest, Almira meets a series of Old Women with magic horses and sparkly gold gifts. The old women, (played by Autumn, Autumn and Autumn) touched the childhood chord in me of wondering whether all mysterious strangers in fairy tales are actually the same person in disguise. The old women warn Almira in language that makes her quest seem hopeless, but still she charges on. Almira meets up with the South Wind, played by Jens with warmth and kindness, who takes her to the home of his brother, our friend, the gruff North Wind. The North Wind gives Almira a bit of a hard time, as he is wont to do, explaining that he is quite exhausted from dealing with the pig, the baboon and the overly trusting lad, but eventually relents, and takes her to the castle East of the Sun and West of the Moon.
Once there, sweet Almira encounters the wretched Princess Yalda, whose spitefulness was played with great glee by Tyler. Almira takes advantage of Princess Yalda’s greed, trading the gifts from the old woman, in order to gain access to her Prince each evening. Finally, with the help of a captive King and Queen, played with great elderliness by Joe and Stephanie, Almira and the Prince are reunited, and hatch a plan to disrupt the wedding.
At the wedding, the wicked enchanting step mother witch troll, played by Alex with cleverness and great witchiness, Yalda, and the trolls attempt to meet the conditions of the clever plan, to no avail. When Almira is able to meet the Prince’s condition for marriage, all the trolls implode, as trolls are wont to do, the old King and Queen are released, and living happily ever after ensues.
All three plays were well supported by set design and stage management by several students and staff, including Sam, Ian, James, Max and Melanie (and numerous others that I am sure I am forgetting). There was notable detail in the set design, including paintings, fireplaces, and fires, and the use of large black backdrops. The stage crew was unobtrusive, and swift, and the use of action to take the audience’s attention from the movement of sets was smooth.
Music was provided by John III and Joe, and sound was managed ably by Zak, and provided a lovely counterpoint to the action onstage.
Each play contained wonderful small moments of human (as well as pig, baboon and stick) connection and interaction. Most notable to me was the antipathy between the baboon and pig, reflected in their body language; the affection between the Lad and his Mother; and the warmth and love between Almira and both her Father and the Bear Prince.
I make an assumption here, that the costume design, which was spot on in every case, was largely the work of Tyler, as costume design is her passion, and also because Princess Yalda wore the most beautiful costume, despite her cold, cruel, troll-like heart.
Behind all of this delight was the amazing Chloe, who was the motivating factor behind the play, one of the three co-authors, and The Narrator. Chloe’s narration was performed with just the right blend of subtlety and emphasis, as is, in my experience, everything she does. It was very clear to this reader, throughout preparation that this event was, to some large degree, Chloe’s baby. It is a rare individual indeed, able to conceive of such a vast project, to execute it, and to provide such a wonderful opportunity to allow those around her to shine. Chloe is that remarkable individual, and she provided something of true beauty for her community this weekend.
If I have forgotten anyone, I apologize. You were all wonderful. Some of you I did not recognize behind your costumes, and makeup and embodiment of your character.