Once again First Stage Children's Theater brings literature to life!
Yes, Junie B. Jones is naughty and self-centered and lacking a verbal filter. She displays the kind of behaviors most of us are working hard to minimize in our own children. So why then is her character so important, important enough to be adapted into a play?
Dorothy Butler says in Babies Need Books: Sharing the Joy of Books with Children from Birth to Six,
"Parents and children who share books come to share the same frame of reference. Incidents in everyday life constantly remind one or the other - or both, simultaneously of a situation, a character, an action, from a jointly enjoyed book, with all the generation of warmth and well-being that is attendant upon such sharing."
For the over-four child (whom these books and this play are recommended), Junie provides a frame of reference with plenty of situations and "incidents from everyday life" that will lead to meaningful conversations with your school-aged child...the stress of having to produce something interesting for show-and-tell, how telling lies can backfire, why it is not okay to make people give you things in exchange for friendship, what feelings come with a having a new baby in the family, how the truth will set you free, etc.
In the director's notes, John Maclay explains, "With our production we have attempted to create a world - in true Junie fashion - that is at once fantastical and grounded in reality."
Everyday settings with a big dose of fabulous is exactly what you'll get - the scenery, the lighting, the costumes, the songs! And of course the school bus that MOVES! We felt as if we'd been transported right into the pages of the book. And how mesmerizing that the actors' movements and gestures made them look just like the Denise Brunkus illustrations.
And then there's those cool moments when Junie snaps her fingers...the lighting changes, other characters freeze, as she directly addresses that audience with her inner thoughts. My five year old was beyond fascinated with this concept and, as a result, now has a heightened awareness of her own internal dialogue! After seeing the play, one day after school she shared with me: "I was going to say something to someone but knew it wouldn't be nice, so I snapped my fingers and kept it in my head."
Between all the fun and high drama, there's also some really special moments between Junie and Grampa. Another "frame of reference" that illustrates how wonderful it is to have a grown-up in your corner to help you with your problems. They sing a song together that I admit made me cry.
As the director concludes in his notes, "Junie B. is not perfect. And neither are any of us. But with the care of our families and an honest attempt to do better, we can all hope to make better choices in life - while still retaining some of the joy of being five. May we all remember the Junie B. that we once were."
Thanks FIRST STAGE for another oustanding live theater experience with my child!
JUNIE B. JONES and a LITTLE MONKEY BUSINESS runs through November 14 at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts.