Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: Pirates, Puppets, Baseball, and Butterflies

The Children’s Theatre Company released their 2012-2013 line-up yesterday. Last week, I visited artistic director Peter Brosius between rehearsals for Lizzie Bright to chat and get a little insight into the season. Here’s what he had to say.

First up is the world premiere of Buccaneers!, the tale of headstrong 12-year-old Enid Arabella and her high-seas adventure aboard the pirate ship of Johnny Johné. I’m all for new works—especially when every movie of late seems to be based on a novel, someone’s life, or is just a reworking of an older version. I’m especially excited about Buccaneers! because it features Bradley Greenwald, who recently blew me away in I Am My Own Wife at Jungle Theater. He’s also a CTC regular, and is sure to do a stellar job (as will whomever gets cast as Enid, I’m sure). Another thing I love about this show: the flourish and passion with which Brosius, who’s directing the production, says “Johnny Johné!” Every time. So great.

The next two plays are both familiar to anyone who’s ever been a kid: Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I asked Brosius if he was nervous about staging two Seuss shows in one season (not to mention back-to-back, albeit on different stages). Nope. “The Cat in the Hat will be very proper, very structured,” he told me. In fact, director Jason Ballweber is following Katie Mitchell’s adaptation, originally produced by the National Theatre of Great Britain. Dr. Seuss, British style? I’m intrigued. As for Grinch: “It will be a huge, glorious, over-the-top extravaganza,” he said, eyes bright with excitement. “I chose this one because, well, I wanted to direct it!” Good enough for me.

Kicking off 2013 is Pinocchio. But not just any Pinocchio. No, sir, this version, the world-premiere vision of Ivey Award-winning director Greg Banks (Robin Hood, A Wrinkle in Time), will be done in what Brosius dubbed “European style.” Meaning? Four actors playing all the roles, and lots of audience participation. No hiding behind that imaginary fourth wall here.

While Pinocchio is playing on the main stage, toddlers around the Twin Cities will be seated on faux-grass patches beneath twinkling tree branches to watch Bernice the Butterfly, Millie the Mouse, Fred the Frog, Richie the Rabbit, and Bartholomew the Bear in The Biggest Little House in the Forest. Oh yeah, one more thing: all the characters will be played by company member and puppeteer extraordinaire Autumn Ness. CTC premiered the show a few years ago to great success, and Brosius said he’s very excited to once more invite the two-to-four-year-old crowd back to the theater. (CTC is one of the only theaters in the nation playing to this audience—and if I can swing it, I’ll sneak my way onto one of those grass patches, too!)

Just in time for baseball season is Jackie and Me, adapted from Dan Gutman’s novel and directed by internationally acclaimed director Marion McClinton. The story follows little leaguer Joe Stocack as he travels back in time to meet Jackie Robinson. More than a sports story, Jackie breaks down the rampant prejudice and racism that plagued baseball in the 1940s and ’50s in a way that young viewers can understand. I love history almost as much as I love theater, and can think of no better way to expose kids to tough topics than through the magic of the stage.

And then there’s Alice in Wonderland. Brosius pauses before explaining how and why he chose this classic tale. “I read a new take on Alice in an article recently, and it changed the way I view the story,” he says. “Alice is always portrayed as this passive girl who’s forced to simply go with the flow and adapt to the crazy circumstances around her. But she’s not passive! She stands up for herself against the Queen of Hearts, and doesn’t take no for an answer. That’s the Alice I want to put on stage.” It’s no easy task reimagining a story as well known as this, but if anyone can do it, Brosius can.

September 11–October 21, 2012

Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat
September 25–December 2, 2012

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
November 6–December 30, 2012

January 15–February 24, 2013

The Biggest Little House in the Forest
January 24–March 17, 2013

Jackie and Me
March 12–April 14, 2013

Alice in Wonderland
April 30–June 15, 2013