A fanciful world of color and Commedia awaits children of all ages at Talespinner Children’s Theatre with their current production, “Golden (a Grimm’s Faerie Tale),” running now through April 24, 2016.
The story of a pair of glittery siblings who strike out to find their place in the world is entwined with magical creatures and curious adventures. The show is adapted by Toni K. Thayer and Directed by Alison Garrigan.
Cast member and TCT Director of Marketing Devin Turchan gives an inside peek to this energetic journey.
Kate Klotzbach: Describe the story of the show in a few sentences.
DT: In “Golden,” Dr. Rory and his opera-singing wife Isabella are tricked into buying a small shack, a property complete with sad-looking sheep and horses. But in the woods one day Dr. Rory and his faithful servant Zan’Chino run into a golden pheasant who changes their lives. Years later, Dr. Rory and Isabella’s twins Aurelia and Aurelius set out to make their way in the world but find themselves running into many zany characters who make things “interesting” for the two. The rest would be spoilers!
KK: What was the hardest part about bringing the show together?
DT: The style in which “Golden” is staged provided a very specific type of challenge. “Golden” is performed in the style of Commedia Dell’Arte, an Italian style of mask theatre that dates back to the 15th century, adding yet another layer beyond the story itself to what you’ll learn by coming to see the show.
Our cast worked together with our playwright, director and Commedia specialist to hone the physical storytelling aspect that makes the show so unique from other productions at Talespinner. Playwright Toni K. Thayer was instrumental in bringing Commedia to a young audience and to family audiences who are rarely exposed to this amazingly fun way to tell stories.
Timing is everything in Commedia and we didn’t have much time to rehearse! So it was a quick process that required the cast to trust one another from the start. Even a small moment in the show may have taken us a couple of hours to perfect so that we could get across the core of the messages we are trying to convey in this special style.
KK: Have the cast members done Commedia before?
DT: Actor Miron Gusso was familiar with the style. He gave the rest of the cast their first introduction to how Commedia masks influence a performance along with very specific, clear body gestures that help tell the story. Several other actors had some basic training but this is their first time putting Commedia on its feet in a full-blown production.
KK: Tell me about the different masks!
DT: Masks are a large part of what defines a Commedia character. About a dozen-or-so Commedia stock characters were used to tell stories at the time and of these characters, Harlequin might be the most famous. There are various levels of status represented from peasants to ruthless bosses to the lovers, who seemingly haven’t a care in the world beyond the quest for love. The traditionally leather masks have very long noses sometimes, which sets them apart from other masks we see in theatre history. With their raised eyebrows and exaggerated cheeks, these masks tell you a lot about the personality of the characters.
Talespinner Children’s Theatre Costume Designer Melanie Boeman made the masks by hand with a pliable plastic material. The cast learned, with the help of our Commedia specialist Cathleen O’Malley, the specific movements that have been used since the 15th century in this tradition. There’s also a YouTube playlist that Talespinner produced to explain the different stock characters and how the actors in “Golden” shaped them to fit this production. The videos are perfect to show your kids before you come! https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6nnHIUfVLvbyvSnaB9vEVDfwk4o1-ZjK
KK: How is working in this form different from other forms, and what was it like working with Cathleen O’Malley on the style?
DT: Working with a movement specialist is important with Commedia because the physical comedy is so specific and intricate. If you try to fake it, audiences won’t get the same joy out of watching the performance. Cathleen has such a friendly way of teaching the true heart of comedy. Why do we laugh at things? She helped us to become what she calls “scientists” of comedy. We dissected why tiny movements like slipping on a banana peel are so funny to people! We all learned so much. Director Alison Garrigan helped take those micro moments we explored with Cathleen and string them all together so there is a constant excitement and purpose to the madness going on between juggling and maneuvering masks and puppets! As a cast and creative team, the people who have worked on “Golden” have been all-hands-on-deck.
KK: What do the cast and crew members do in between shows to pass the time?
DT: Last week, the cast and crew played board games on stage after having a quick Happy Dog and a cup of coffee from Gypsy Beans! We have so many restaurants in the Gordon Square district and we don’t mind being so close to Sweet Moses’ ice cream.
“Golden” Acting Company
Andrea Belser – Isabella/Inn Keeper/Ensemble
Tania Benites – La Briganda/Lelio/Ensemble
Luke Brett – Dr. Rory/Captain Captain/Ensemble
Katelyn Cornelius – Mr. Bank/La Stregissima/Ensemble
Miron Gusso – Zan’chino
Dayni Mahar – Aurelia/Ensemble
Devon Turchan – Aurelius/Ensemble
“Golden” plays at Talespinner Children’s Theatre at the Reinberger Auditorium in Gordon Square, at 5209 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44102. Tickets are $10 (Age 12 and Under), $15 (Age 13 and Over) and $12 for Seniors and College Students (with ID). Special PAY WHAT YOU CAN performance on Friday, April 22nd. That’s just what it sounds like: show up and “pay what you can” to enjoy the show on April 22, 2016!
More information and tickets