Thursday, September 21, 2000

Familiar characters captivate children




By Janelle Gelfand
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The story of the caterpillar with the insatiable appetite is familiar to millions of children and adults who have been reading Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar since 1969. In the mid-1980s, Mr. Carle wrote The Very Quiet Cricket, a journey through the insect world as a little cricket searches for his own voice.

        The tales are interpreted by Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Aronoff Center.

        The Enquirer spoke with artistic director Jim Morrow, who adapted the stories with Sheri Eaton and composer Steven Naylor.

        Question: How do you tell the stories?

        Answer: In black light. Ultraviolet light shines on surfaces painted with fluorescent paint, making them appear to glow. Our puppeteers are dressed in black, and the set is a black box. The characters are puppet characters.

        Q: What are some things that the Very Hungry Caterpillar eats?

        A: He has a passion for fruit: apples, pears, oranges, strawberries and plums. Then he goes through a smorgasbord of all kinds of things. He gets a very big tummy ache and goes to bed. (He) weaves himself a cocoon. Out of the cocoon emerges a butterfly.)

        Q: What kind of reaction do you get from children?

        A: They scream. They get very excited when they see the caterpillar. For children ages 3, 4 and 5 years old, this is pandemonium. It's like seeing one of their heroes.

        Q: What is the funniest reaction you've ever had?

        A: One child asked, “How did they get the caterpillar out of the book?”

        Q: What were some of your biggest challenges?

A: How to maintain Eric Carle's beautiful sense of simplicity in a theater form. How does a caterpillar walk, a cricket jump? Normally our characters speak. We thought it was best to have the voice of a father telling the story to his children (on tape).

        Q: What insects does the Cricket meet?

        A: The first insect is an adult cricket, (who) rubs his wings together to show the little cricket how to say hello. The little cricket tries to rub his wings together, but nothing happened. Not a sound. Every time he meets a new insect, he rubs his wings together and nothing happened. Not a sound. At the end of the show, kids are whispering, “Nothing happened. Not a sound.

        He meets a locust, a praying mantis; a worm in an apple; a bee; a spittlebug; a cicada; a dragonfly; mosquitoes and a luna moth. Finally he meets a girl cricket.

        Q: What is your favorite puppet?

A: The dragonfly. It has a wingspan of 9 feet. It's slow-moving, colorful and it's a very captivating moment.
       If you go

        What: The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Quiet Cricket
        When: 3 p.m. Saturday Where: Aronoff Center
        Tickets: $8-$12, 241-7469

       



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