Stellaluna at Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre

I’ve loved the story of Stellaluna since I first read it more than a decade ago – long before I had kids. Emily Alexander did a one-woman puppet production of it at the zoo, and I fell in love. It’s such a sweet story of a bat discovering her true self, that I was captivated.

As a parent now, the story resonates with me more deeply. To lose your baby… heartbreak! To find her again… bliss!
I was delighted to learn that Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre was producing this lovely story, and even more delighted to learn that Emily herself was the playwright.

I had never been to a Tears of Joy production, so I was extra excited to take the family. The kids have really shown an interest in live theater this year, so I’m trying to take them whenever we can. Being at the Winningstad Theater at PCPA is great for kids because it’s so intimate – it’s much easier to hold their attention when they can see what’s happening!

Unfortunately, Anna came down with a fever the day of the show, so she and Brian stayed home. Eric and I invited our friend Yashi to come with us, and we all had a great time.

Yashi & Eric discussing the sets pre-show

We were concerned when we first got to our seats, because our tickets were split into two different areas. But when Nancy, the creative director, came out to greet the audience, she graciously invited everyone to move in closer if there were empty seats, so not only did we get to move a few rows closer, but then we didn’t have to worry about being split up for the duration of the production. Whew! I was so relieved. Also, it was just so homey and nice to have the introduction at the beginning of the show. I appreciate the personal touch, it adds to the sense of community.

The production itself was captivating to 4-year-old Eric. I was a little distracted at first by the humans running the puppets, but I was quickly won over and didn’t notice them much for the rest of the show. The bats in flight were portrayed with gorgeous indoor kites, which made me want an indoor kite. It was really magical, and made even more so by the mesmerizing gamelan music by Portland’s own Venerable Showers of Beauty orchestra.

Stellaluna and her bird ‘siblings’ {TOJT photo}

The two actors/puppeteers, Jeremy and Kristin, were really fantastic. They quickly and seamlessly switched voices, traded puppets, and kept the story moving beautifully. It’s amazing how much emotion and humor can be conveyed by the simple tilt of a head, when done by a master puppeteer.

The set looked really enchanting, with a big glowing moon and starry sky for the night scenes. I was a little disappointed that the puppets weren’t more… oh, pretty, I guess. They were cute and all, but a little goofy. I was expecting something closer to the elegance of the original book illustrations. Not a big deal, certainly, and Eric didn’t mind.

The whole show was just over an hour or so, perfect for the little guy. Long enough to feel like a big deal, but not so long as to cause restlessness. I wish I could have taken his picture during the show – he was laughing, smiling, giggling through the whole thing. Several times, he had to stand up because it was that exciting. He especially loved Mama Bird, who had a silly voice (by Jeremy) and always seemed a little exasperated. Or maybe I as a mama was projecting the exasperated part…

Jeremy and Kristin came on stage after the show to explain the puppets and how everything worked. Again, so personal and intimate.

 

As captivated as Eric was by the production, he seemed a little freaked out by the puppets when they were up close and personal.

The theme of Stellaluna is such a good lesson for kids – be yourself, don’t try to change to fit in with other people, you are perfect the way you are. Tears of Joy did a lovely job of producing this story, and this a great outing for families.

Eric asked me, “Can we come back with my sister to see another exciting story?”

Definitely!

 

We were given tickets to this production by PDX Kids Calendar in exchange for our honest review.