Pharaoh Serket & The Lost Stone Of Fire - Good Theatre For ChildrenSunday, April 10, 2011
|Parnelli Parnes In Italy (not in Egypt)|
In 1950 in Buenos Aires ( I was 8 years old so the exact date is fuzzy in my mind) one morning I walked with my mother to the train station in our suburban home in Coghlan. This particular day might have been a Tuesday as it was on Tuesdays that the latest Pato Donald comic book would be on the train station’s newsstand. And that was the case. The comic book was a Spanish translation of the 1943 Dell Donald Duck and the Mummy’s Ring which featured Donald Duck, his nephews, Huey, Dewey, Louie and that terrible thug Black Pete. They all go to Egypt and somehow the story leads to ancient Egypt and Huey being sealed in a mummy case. I remember wild-eyed and extremely nasty Egyptians. This comic book became my most favourite and led me to an interest in ancient history, archeology and mythology. To this day I smile when the National Geographic manages (once a year, it seems) to have a story on ancient Egypt or the Incas of Peru and the Aztec or Mayans of Mexico. The thrill in reading these Geographic essays are close to the thrill of seeing that Pato Donald cover back in 1950.
It was with the same anticipation of that day of walking to the train station with my mother that my granddaughter Lauren and I went last night to the Carousel Theatre production at the Waterfront Theatre of Pharaoh Serket and the Lost Stone of Fire. This play, written by John Olive and directed by Mike Stack did not disappoint. Lauren on our way to the theatre asked me if there was going to be music (she meant in her own way to enquire if the play was a musical). I told her that it was not the case (even though at one point Melissa Dionisio, as Akana, Pharaoh’s sister, does sing). It was hard to explain to Lauren that we were going to the theatre to see a play.
The set is a wonderful set that evoked for me that Donald Duck comic book of my past. It featured a pyramid, an obelisk (I had to explain to Lauren what an obelisk was!) and an often disappearing palm tree. The background music (Jeff Tymoschuk) was mysterious but somehow pleasant and not off-putting.
Lauren was thrilled and both of us were not able to figure out the whodunit element of the play. When we found out at the end we were truly surprised!
The actors were just right. They were complex enough to interest me but self-evident to my granddaughter. The one “protagonist” that Lauren was in the dark was the snake. She asked me, “Was that a real snake?”
Lauren and I particularly enjoyed the comic relief of the play. And this came from Parnelli Parnes who plays Bakneb the sneezing but expert scribe and Allan Zinyk the Bedouin guide with a taste for gold. Both Lauren and I laughed at these two men and in particular in a scene in which the two compete in their ability to spit and sneeze.
Pharaoh Serket and the Lost Stone of Fire, and the more I think about it, the taking of children to “serious” plays written especially for them are an antidote to the unrealistic realism of modern animated films for children. Even the Pixar classics feature mice that are cartoon mice, no matter how realistic their voices might be. In a real play the child (in this case my Lauren) knows that the young man playing the Pharaoh, is a young man playing a Pharaoh. She sees through the wig even if in some moments she is carried away by the action and a knife on a high priest’s back almost seems real. I believe that taking children to plays in some way teaches them to study people and the relationships they create. Going to a play becomes a communal event for a child. There are other children in the theatre. I watched how Lauren stared at other children. There is no way that this kind of situation can be had in Lauren’s home when she watches something with her older sister and parents.
And who knows, like her grandfather, Lauren might soon be interested in reading about the wonders of the Nile, the crocodiles, the mummies, the pyramids and the other delights of the ancient world. Theatre for children is good for children.
Pharaoh Serket and the Lost Stone of Fire runs until April 30th.