InterAct Story Theatre presents the world premiere of a new play created just for early childhood audiences this September at Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center in Silver Spring. Bobtail Bong Bong: A Monkey’s Tail Tale is a unique, interactive forum theatre experience for young children and the grownups who love them in which kids call the shots and make the choices–and the characters try out their ideas to see if they work! Bob the Monkey is the smartest monkey in the land, and they want everyone to know it!
Bob the Monkey wants what they want and they want it NOW! But…why is everyone mad at Bob? Bob didn’t do anything! In this interactive forum theatre experience for kids and families, audiences follow Bob’s madcap misadventures and help Bob figure out where they went wrong and got in trouble monkeying around. Led by InterAct’s Artistic Director Ali Oliver-Krueger, audience members make suggestions about how Bob could do things differently, and watch Bob and friends role play out their ideas. Can Bob flip the script and turn things around? Can Bob make things better by making better choices? Does it work? What happens next? Best for ages 4 and up.
This interactive, experimental play for young audiences takes forum theatre structures and adapts them for very young children. Four actors take on the role of Bob the Monkey and their friends, cavorting through the action and trying to work through conflict, conundrums, and a kaleidoscope of feelings with coaching, suggestions, and help from the audience. They are joined on stage by InterAct’s Artistic Director Ali Oliver-Krueger, who takes on the role of The Joker–in forum theatre, The Joker is part emcee, part facilitator, part narrator, and part audience activator, inspiring the audience to engage in the action of the story, take on the task of wrestling with the problems the main character faces, and step into the action to try out ideas that might (or might not) turn things around for the character. “In our forum theatre for young children–which is really part interactive theatre, part forum theatre, part playback theatre–our Joker has a foot in each world–the world of the play and the world of the audience,” says Oliver-Krueger, who is also the playwright, “Young children have a lot to say, and have a lot of thoughts, ideas, and feelings about what they see characters doing on stage! My job as Joker is to bring those ideas out of the kids–what is Bob doing that’s going wrong? What choices is Bob making? Why do you think Bob is doing that? If Bob could go back and get a do-over, what could Bob do differently? Would that make it better? Let’s see! Kids then get the validation of having adult, professional actors really hear their ideas and play them back in front of their eyes.”
The play is loosely inspired by a story from Oliver-Krueger’s childhood in Japan. “Growing up, there was this story about this clever but foolish monkey who bragged a lot, who didn’t make wise choices, and who made these really impulsive decisions thinking only about themselves. At the end of the story, the monkey gets their comeuppance, and that was it–it was a funny story with a moral, and we kids all laughed, but also it was kind of horrifying to six-year-old Ali…because I totally identified with the monkey! Sometimes I got so hyper-focused on the super-duper important thing I wanted right that minute, sometimes I had really big feelings, or made impulsive decisions, or hurt other kids’ feelings by accident–what kid doesn’t? As a kid, I really empathized with this monkey who just needed some help and advice from a few good friends…and maybe a do-over or two. As an adult, I really wanted to give kids like me a chance to laugh and play along with this funny little monkey, and be those good friends who can help the monkey out, figure out ways to try to make good choices and treat friends with respect and fairness–even when it’s hard! And to coach the monkey through that do-over. Will it work out? Will there be a new ending for the monkey with a happy ever after? It’s all up to the kids!”
On Saturdays and Sundays, kids and families are welcome to come before the show for pre-show activities and crafts, and to stay after the show to meet the actors! The Pre-show activities table opens 30 minutes before the performance.
Bobtail Bong Bong: A Monkey’s Tail Tale will be presented for two weekends at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center’s Theatre II (Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, 7995 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring, Maryland, 20910) from September 20-28, 2019. The performance run also includes four special Field Trip Friday performances–two each on Friday, September 20 and Friday, September 27–with free and discount tickets available while supplies last for elementary school, early childhood center, and homeschool audiences. Field Trip Friday performances include a special talkback with the playwright/director and actors, and resource materials for educators and parents. Bobtail Bong Bong: A Monkey’s Tail Tale is InterAct Story Theatre’s fourth production in four years at the Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center having presented Voytto Tech: a scifi fable , last year in fall 2018.
This production is supported in part by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council. On the web at MSAC.org. Also, supported in part by Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, the Montgomery County government, and the generous support of a legion of donors and partners. Thank you for supporting arts for kids and families in Maryland!