After several years without children’s theater, an interactive 45 minute play, “According to Coyote” premiered this weekend at the Old Town Theater.
It was written by Native American John Kauffman and directed by Sam Houston State University’s Vicky Lantz. This was a production the entire family could enjoy.
A cast of fourteen told the many adventures of Coyote, who can either be insightful or irresponsible depending on the journey.
Whether he danced with the stars, traveled to the shadow world or just tried to find something to eat, he taught many rich lessons to the children but maintained upbeat and comical.
Each legend is unique and meaningful as it has been passed through the generations to help shape the world. However, a script full of beautiful folk tales couldn’t have been brought to life without SHSU’s actors.
An interesting aspect was that there was no lead actor. Everyone shared the spotlight as narrators traded off with other narrators and the only way to differentiate Coyote was through a red costume piece.
The switching of actors in middle of scenes caused no lag; the transitions remained seamless. It didn’t matter who played which role because everyone did the characters justice.
Though all six narrators and eight ensemble actors did well, there were those who stood out, such as Jessica Roberts, Raquel Oliveira, Jacob Foster, and Jasmin Trujillo. It was obvious Roberts and Trujillo had genuine fun on stage and truly enjoyed bringing the audience into the story with them. Foster and Oliveira seemed especially uninhibited.
It is apparent that just as much happens behind stage as on stage.
The simplicity of the set is deceptive, as a lot of extra thought and work goes into the production of a portable set. With limited time and resources, the director, props designer and puppet designer pulled through with narration, experimental physical movement and innovative scrim work rather than splurging on set pieces or props to convey the story.
Most of the ensemble’s costumes were minimal but there were some characters with intricate handmade costumes that earned some “oohs” and “aahs” from the crowd. As far as special effects, traditional folk music was played to set the mood, but nothing else. The reason for such minimalism isn’t only because of portability or the switching of actors. It’s a reminder that the play isn’t about the spectacle, but the stories themselves and the significance they hold.
Despite fart noises and having to help Fox count to four, it was still an opportunity for people of all ages to be exposed to the lost art of storytelling (and earn a Girl Scout badge).
“According to Coyote” will return to Scott Johnson Elementary School and Gibbs Pre-K Center the first week of April and hopefully their tour will continue to Sam Houston Elementary School to expose more children to the history, culture and traditions of the Nez Perce tribe and their way of life.
For more information about “According to Coyote” and upcoming performances, visit accordingtocoyote.wordpress.com, or contact Lantz at 936.294.4339, or firstname.lastname@example.org.