Monday, April 27, 2009

Pirates & Positive Behavior

Pirates never wear sunblock, nor do they brush their teeth, or ever use manners. They don't have to listen to their mothers telling them to clean their rooms. They don't have to bathe or do homework. And when they're hungry they just say, "HAND OVER THE MEAT!"

Braid Beard, the captain of the pirate ship in First Stage Children's Theater's production of How I Became a Pirate, was explaining all of this to Jeremy Jacobs, the young boy who had suddenly been transported from everyday life to the deck of a ship filled with lively pirates.

As I sat with my daughter in the darkness of the audience on this rainy Sunday afternoon of live theater; I was laughing with the rest of them on the outside, but biting my lip on the inside. How would this affect the rules of decency and manners that I had been working so hard to impart on my daughter since toddlerhood?

"And pirates NEVER say PLEASE or THANK YOU!" Braid Beard emphasized. My heart sort of skipped a beat here as I looked down at my daughter's wide-eyed, 5-year-old face.

Nothing like high-quality children's theater to transport you... The lights! The set! The costumes! The actors! These crazy characters, the pirates, with their different way of talking and their don't-have-to-answer-to-authority ways. She was completely taken!

I imagined the days ahead - of her testing the boundaries and using the pirates as justification for anarchy! But alas, the plot twist that turns things in my favor is that, all the excitement and novelty of freedom and adventure fade as Jeremy Jacobs begins to miss home (ala Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are) - his own bed, reading books, goodnight kisses from Mom and Dad.

"Can someone tuck me in?" Jeremy Jacobs asks the pirates with a longing in his voice. The pirates are unable to fulfill his request but do sing a wistful song with him about missing home. Touched by the message of It's Good to Be Home and the thought of no love at bedtime, my daughter is transformed again and reaches out to hold my hand for the duration of the song.

It's worth mentioning here how fabulous the music is! Some of the actors are also well-known local musicians (from bands such as Frogwater and Random Maxx) playing guitars, keyboard, drum, flute and violin. Is there a CD soundtrack available? I'd love to know, because I'm ready to buy it!

John Maclay, the director, writes in his director's notes...

How I Became a Pirate was one of the first books that I read to my son and it has become a staple in our reading list. As we now bring the story to life for your enjoyment I hope that, upon leaving the theater, the tunes stay with you and you remember a few good laughs.

Mission accomplished, John!

But by far, the greatest, lasting benefit of spending an afternoon with the pirates at First Stage, is that my daughter and I now have a new inside running joke that promotes positive behavior:

"I'm going to go live with the pirates!" she'll say to me when she's disappointed because I tell her she SHOULD or CAN'T do something.

Then I'll respond, "THAT'S RIGHT! I'm going to send you off to go live with the pirates if you don't do what I say!" Very tongue-in-cheek, and then we both laugh and the struggle of the moment is dispelled. Lesson learned: living with all the benefits and comforts of home means following rules, remembering our manners, and listening to our parents. What a perfect learning moment How I Became a Pirate has given us!

So although the pirates wouldn't approve of my manners in saying this...

THANKS First Stage Children's Theater!

And a huge THANKS to Nancy (of "Nancy & Phinlee" - storytime regulars and mateys of mine) for the gift of the tickets! Nancy's husband, Jared, is Production Manager for First Stage. How lucky we are that they recently relocated here to Milwaukee from Manhattan!

How I Became a Pirate is a world premiere, original musical adapted by Janet Yates Vogt and Mark Friedman from Melinda Long's book by the same title. The production runs through May 17 and is recommended for ages 3 and older.

Also, check out the First Stage website for more information on the 2009-2010 season with more upcoming productions that are adaptations based on some fabulous books including:

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
If You Give A Mouse a Cookie
If You Take a Mouse to School

THEATER BASED ON BOOKS! It just doesn't get any more exciting than that...ARRRRRRGH!!! (Couldn't resist...that darned pirate-speak is beyond addictive!)

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