Wednesday, December 9, 2009

EL NUMERO UNO opens 4 Feb 2010 at the Lorraine Kimsa Theatre for Young People in Toronto

Ras Onelove, El Numero Uno and Compere Lapin, three characters from El Numero Uno

computer glitch... please forgive absence of accents in text

My children's play, El Numero Uno, is an original Caribbean tale about a little pig captured by greedy twin monsters who threaten his island with starvation. If he is to save the day, the Number One Pig will need big-big help from his neighbours – and a magical soup! Directed by b current's ahdri zina mandiela, with design and music in the hands of Astrid Janson and Cathy Nosaty respectively, and featuring a cast of Canadian/Caribbean actors, the play opens on Thursday February 4, with previews on Jan 31 (2:00 p.m.), February 1 (10:15 a.m.), February 2 (10:15 a.m.) and February 3 (1:00 p.m.). There's a Teacher Preview at 7:00 p.m. on February 3 as well.

The play has been some time gestating! The story was first hatched for the 25th IBBY Conference, held in Groningen, Netherlands, in August 1995. Dutch author and illustrator, Max Velthuijs, created a series of illustrations and four storytellers from various parts of the world were invited to create tales to go along with Max's images. These were projected on screen when the stories were being told to the audience at the conference. Thus was El Numero Uno, aka Le Premier Cochon, aka the Number One Pig, born.

I'm pleased to say that the original story about El Numero Uno was a big hit in Holland. (Max Velthuijs, I only just learned, died in 2005. RIP, Max.) In his comments at the conference, he said he was surprised that, though the story took place at Christmastime (it was originally set at that time, and the first song was a Christmas lullaby that I'll append to this post), Uno was frolicking outside, enjoying sunshine and seasonal flowers, red poinsettias and white euphorbia. I think he was quite serious too...

Uno went underground for the next few years, re-emerging in or around 2001 in answer to a call for treatments from LKTYP. The play was chosen for funding and by 2002, a script was in LKTYP's artistic director's hands. (Pierre Tetrault was the AD at the time.) It had a reading not long after the incoming artistic director, Allen MacInnis, came to LKTYP, and has been in workshop over the years since, intensively so in the last three years. It's been shaped and reshaped in that time under the nurturing eyes of dramaturg Stephen Colella, as well as those of the artistic director.

Some amazing people have taken part in the readings, and I thank them all, enormously. The development process was constructive, instructive, and on occasion hilariously disruptive – all in all, immensely satisfying in itself. I'll have more to say about LKTYP's wonderful staff, the play's director, designer, music director, and the cast members in my posts between now and the opening. And of course, there will be more about the play itself.

Meantime, please encourage everyone you know, especially folks in Toronto, especially teachers with classes in the 8 to 18 age group, to come to see Uno. (It's really suitable for anyone from eight to eighty!) Teachers should make their bookings now, for February fast approaches! The play is enormously funny, and though it's a fantasy, it addresses issues faced not only by children and adolescents, but by communities everywhere that are put to the test by forces over which they have no control. So though it's amusing, it's serious too. It's got songs, raps, and is a great mashup of creoles and French and Spanish and Dread Talk. It has a band of Jonkanoo masqueraders, original and traditional music, and great costumes.

El Numero Uno isn't entirely why I've been absent here on Jahworld. I was away visiting the marvelous Zoey, spent some time in Orlando collecting some sun, and was on retreat at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester-on-Sea, MA, for a week, where one morning I watched mesmerized as huge gray green waves were herded ashore under the lash of Hurricane Ida – not fifty yards from where I was sitting eating lunch. (One wall of the lunchroom is a long, uninterrupted glass window.) Earlier in the week, we'd had great weather, and enjoyed birdwatching and seal gazing. The seals drape themselves over the rocks and take sun, vanishing with the incoming tide, re-emerging when it's out.

Back in Toronto, I've been catching up, or trying to, and I've been giving the Number One Pig some attention. More on him in due course, as I've promised. And now, also as I've promised, two verses of the Christmas song, "Little Brown Jesus".

"Little Brown Jesus"

Little brown Jesus
Born in the cold
Quick Jesus’ Mommy –
Cover up him mole.

Cover up him mole quick
Before him start to sneeze
Cover him quick from
The chilly Christmas breeze.

© Pamela Mordecai 2002