On Friday, April 1, 2011 I drove to the Historic Irvington Lodge on the near east side of Indianapolis to see the world premiere of Q Artistry’s “Bunny Spectacular.” It was directed by Ben Asaykwee, with segments directed by Maria Meschi. Ryan Powell and Carrie Morgan were the assistant directors.
If you are a regular reader of Indy Theatre Habit, you know that I almost never have time to write about shows for children. However, I made time for this show because a) I love Q Artistry’s work in general and b) a giant bunny came to visit me with free tickets to opening night.
“Bunny Spectacular” is definitely a treat of a show for families with little kids, but this solo adult had a great time, too.
What the Show Is About
“Bunny Spectacular” is an hour-long extravaganza of bunny-related songs, jokes, and stories, all performed by a variety of kinds of bunny puppets on a huge vertical stage with multiple openings. The stories come from around the world and include humorous story-songs such as “Little Bunny Foo-Foo,” literary tales such as “The Tale of Peter Rabbit,” by Beatrix Potter, and folk tales such as a Native American story about “How Rabbit Lost His Long Tail” and a “Brer Rabbit” folk tale.
Interspersed with the stories and songs are groan-and-laugh puns, one-liners, and joke stories. There is a whole monologue of bunny lounge act schtick by the snarky MC puppet near the beginning.
The climax of the show is a special brief appearance of The Easter Bunny.
I wrote on Lou Harry’s weekly “You Review It Monday” blog the Monday after I saw the show that this is “a hilarious combination of the old ‘Laugh-In’ comedy show and the best of public library story time.” I stand by that comment but I want to add that this is a fully-staged live theatre piece, too. The center of the carrot-bedecked stage is swathed with sparkly fabric curtains that raise and lower to accommodate the needs of the stories and the performers. The two side portions of the stage have multiple little windows for the cast (all bunny puppets) to pop (or should I say “hop”) in and out of. Sometimes there is a delightful blur of activity all over the place. Other times a spotlight helps the audience focus its attention on the correct place on the stage. Recorded music enhances the live singing (sometimes sung in multiple-part harmony), storytelling, and puppetry. The human cast includes a mixture of professional and avocational performance artists.
After director Ben Asaykwee gives the curtain talk, we don’t see any human beings again until the very end, when both humans and puppets take their bows. Most of the puppets are plush hand puppets, converted stuffed animals, or converted socks, but there is also a story done with large cardboard shadow puppets that are as big as the people behind them, and another that is done with stick puppets with moving parts. The hand puppets, especially, are all very life-like and believable in terms of their expressions, gestures, voices, and individual personalities, but all of the puppets are manipulated to good effect by their human handlers.
The overall pacing of the show is tight and good. The little kids sitting around me were entranced, even the boy who seemed at first if he would never stop wailing. (I think his dad let him walk around in back for a while. That helped, too.)
The humor in the show manages to be both adult and family friendly. Oh, my, I had such a good time at this show!
The hour speeds by. At the performance I attended, no one wanted to leave at the end. I don’t mean that they lingered in the lobby. I mean that they stayed seated for several minutes, as if waiting for more to happen. I think this was partly due to the fact the show had been so much fun, and partly due to the fact that the Easter Bunny did not come out and interact with the children one-on-one. However, my program says:
“Q Artistry is hosting a special visit with good ole EB for everyone in the community from 12-2pm on Saturday, April 16th and Saturday, April 23rd. Members of the community are encouraged to take part in this ‘first come, first served’ event. No photographer will be present, but participants are welcome to bring their own cameras to take pictures.”
So maybe Q Artistry just decided it would make too late of a night for families to try to have the Easter Bunny come out and mingle after the show.
My program doesn’t mention a charge for these special visits with EB. IT does say that these special photo opportunities will take place at the Historic Irvington Lodge – the same place as the show. (According to the Q Artistry website, the “Bunny Spectacular” show costs $5 for kids ages 12 and under, $7 for everyone else.)
There were some problems with the sound equipment at first on the night that I went, but they seemed to work themselves out fairly quickly. There was really only one disappointment for me with this show: the librarian and story lover in me can’t help wishing that the stories and their sources had been listed in the program. But, as I say, I had a wonderful time anyway, and it was a source of pleasure to be able to recognize so many of the stories on my own.
Who Did What
In addition to the directors and assistant directors, here is the crew as listed in my program:
- Brandi Gilbert = Light Technician
- Will McCarty = Sound, Graphic Design
- Kaitlin O’Leary = Spotlight Operator
- Lisa Marie Smith = Box Office Guru
- Jason Moon = House Captain
- Puppet Creators = Ben Asaykwee, Anne O’Leary, Meagan Moon, and Maria Meschi
- Set Construction = Ben Lamey, Robyn Lamey, Will McCarty and Ben Asaykwee
- Superstar Volunteers = Marilyn McCarty, Stella Hanley, Meagan Moon and Robyn Lamey
The cast includes:
- Ben Asaykwee
- Robin Bradford
- Maddie Deeken
- Janice Hibbard
- Robyn Lamey
- Sara Lukaszewski
- Gabrielle McAree
- Maria Meschi
- Meagan Moon
- Carrie Morgan
- Maureen O’Leary
- Ryan Powell
Audience and Appeal Factors
This show will appeal to anyone of any age (okay, age 3 and older) that enjoys cute puppets, good stories, energetic live singing, and mischievous yet ultimately family-friendly humor.
And bunnies, of course.
Q Artistry’s “Bunny Spectacular” runs Friday nights, Saturday afternoons, and Saturday nights through April 23, 2011 (two more weekends) at the Historic Irvington Lodge. For more information and to order tickets, please visit www.qartistry.org.
By the way, I asked Ben and Maria where most people park. I have become a fan of the Legend Restaurant that is right across the street and down a little bit past the bus stop from the Irvington Lodge, and I can often find one open parking spot on the curb near there. I have what my sister calls “good parking karma.” However, I wondered about other options.
Maria told me, “There is a fair amount of street parking behind the Lodge. We also park in the paved lots behind the building, but not the gravel lot.”
Ben said, “Parking is mostly ‘find it where you can find it’ in Irvington. But there always seems to be plenty of street parking in the neighborhoods around and yes, if you eat at the Legend before you can simply park there and walk over :)”
I walked over for a late supper after the show. That works, too.
‘See you at the theatres…
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
P.S. – Follow me (@IndyTheatre) and/or the topic #indystage on Twitter.com. I never tweet during a show (and I beg you not to take your phone out during a show either, for any reason, because light is as distracting as noise!) but I often tweet first impressions during intermission or immediately after a show.
(Photos and video for this post provided by Ben Asaykwee and used with permission.)