Saturday, February 19, 2011

Holding On To Joy:Theatre du Reve's "The Red Balloon"

"The Red Balloon", a 1956 French film is a new incarnation of charming, courtesy of Atlanta's own Theatre du Reve', which debuted a stage version, Friday night, at 7 Stages' Theatre. The show was sold-out for the first "adult audience" showing.(Please note: this "adult audience" designation does not mean R-rated action, it simply reflects the fact that only audiences of school-children have seen the play during morning hours.This is definitely a very family-friendly play.)
Park Cofield of the Center for Puppetry Arts, has fashioned(he adapted it for the stage, and also directs it) a play that feels as magical as the original short-film.
There are puppets, balloon(s) that bob when they should, sound effects, great musique(sounds more like what it IS, in French, oui?),and a set that carries us over the French countryside and into a tiny, quaint village. Indeed, the set itself acts as another character, transporting us not only into another place, but another time, as well...
We are treated to a narrator (the always chameleon-ish Park Krausen), as a coquettish girl-woman, and a mom to our hero, Pascal(played with great ease and the perfect percentage of adorableness and spitfire, by Leandre Thivierge), who observes the action, relating it to us, in volleying bits of both French and English(no need to worry if you've lost your French, the action onstage is clear even if you do not speak French), while a whining, puffing bus(a man carrying a very very clever cardboard mock-up of said bus) scurries about, and slogs up hills(the puppetry is genius!).
I must make mention of stellar performances all-around, especially Hubert(Christof Veillon) and Street Musician (Christopher Mont).The ensemble of children is remarkable, as they are very centered and in-the-moment, which is the goal of all acting: to be spontaneous, and for each moment to appear as if you are discovering it, for the first time...
Our little hero, Pascal, discovers his "Balloon Rouge" and...hilarity ensues.

The play is rather short, and that might be a negative for adults wanting a "big"(read:long) night out, but given that this is especially entertaining for young children, why not consider inviting the kids in your life(I'm thinking nieces, nephews, neighbor's kids, grandchildren, etc....) and have a real "kid's night out", beginning with "The Red Balloon", then a hop into the car to sing songs from the show, as you head to the nearest eatery for a meal before arriving home in plenty of time to tuck the kids in, at a very reasonable hour?
You'll forget all about the nightly news with its' fires, floods, unemployment, corruption, crime sprees, and war.
This is the kind of play that actually makes you feel like a child again.
When the best part of a day could be sharing the sunshine with a balloon you found.
Or on a rainy day, sharing an umbrella with a friendly stranger(Cue the nostalgia-button here: back when no one was a stranger, and children could indulge imagination, and were actually encouraged to do so).
When music, hopscotch, jumping rope, and a teacher's soothing voice was all you needed to feel joyful.
When a red ballooon listened to your words, and obeyed. And when that balloon ended, a revolution of balloons rose up in mighty defiance, to heaven.
And all was well, just as it always had been.


Therra Cat said...

What a great blog post!

I have been attending the morning school matinees of "The Red Balloon" and facilitating the talk back sessions each day. What a delight it is to see how involved the school age (from grade school to high school) kids have been when they come to see the play. It is not easy to find something that both 7 and 17 year olds love, but this is it. The teachers have been very complimentary as well and many have said they hope Theatre du Reve will mount the show again next year.

I hope they do, too.

Lisa Allender said...

I would definitely go see it again, but I would include some children, next time!It is very charming and sweet. :D
Thank you for visiting, and commenting.Please SHARE with your friends, Therra Cat. :D

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Frederique said...

Thank you so much for your post.
I have been driving Flora, the little accordionist and child actor to 7 stages for the last time last Sunday. This was hard to say bye to TdR and all her new friends. Park Cofield and Carolyn Cook did an amazing job including our children’s creativity and talents. Chris, the musician wrote and taught music fostering the musical interest of my child. I still hear her play the tunes at home on her accordion! As well as a French Teacher, I am amazed of how this play has been a vehicular of French Language and Culture for my students. When Park asked to the students who spoke French in the room, all my students raised their hands proudly. Learning a second language in a country where the language has a minority of people speaking it is a little artificial. However, when you have theatrical events and actors who share their passion for the language after the talk backs, it gives another dimension to our work and goals as Language Teachers. For our students, knowing that some actors had no French Language skills to begin with and learned through the play is very encouraging too. When we came back in class, we compared and contrasted the play with the original movie. We worked on elements of a story and have plans to retell it. But, this time, the balloon will be the narrator!
And Flora in all of this, another French cultural connection for my little one in Atlanta.

Harnett-Hargrove said...

A staging of The Red Balloon? Who'd of thunk? Was it performed during the day as an educational work for schools to come see... When ALO put on Brundibar a few months ago it was (partly) for an educational program.
The production must be magical!
-J xo

Lisa Allender said...

Frederique, thank you and you arevwelcome, the cast is sooo talented!
Cuz Jayne-- it was very magical! :D