The college’s theatre department is taking their “Fisherman and the Goldfish,” children’s show on the road this spring as they bring the magic of live theatre to libraries and schools in and around the Johnson County metro.
“Fisherman and the Goldfish” is a performance based upon Alexander Pushkin’s 1833 Russian folktale “The Tale of the Fisherman and the Fish,” and was brought into the world of live theatre by Aubrey Urban, director.
Aubrey Urban, adjunct assistant professor, Theatre, described the early process of transforming the folk poem into a full-scale production.
“For me, it was just kind of sitting in around and daydreaming,” Urban said. “I did do a lot of research about [Pushkin] and his contemporaries during that time. Also, since it’s set in a Russian time period, we really try to bring in aspects of that culture.”
In the show, a husband and wife stumble upon a golden fish while casting their nets into empty waters after living in poverty for many years. The fish grants wishes in exchange for its life. At first, the man is reluctant to accept anything from the fish, but his wife gets greedy. Gradually, the wishes go from small to massive corresponding with her unquenchable thirst for more.
“It asks the moral question about greed and how that can change you as a person and realizing that true happiness really comes from appreciating what you have and having gratitude,” Urban said.
Urban said she wrote the play with her own children in mind, but included lessons applicable to everybody.
“Gratitude is a big thing in this world of instant access,” Urban said. “All the kids are already on tablets in schools so it’s nice to remind them that the truest path to happiness is to be grateful for the things that you have.”
The performance is targeted toward children, which, while Urban said would be fun for all ages, still comes with some key differences.
“Most theatre is representational, meaning we don’t break that fourth wall and there’s a suspension of disbelief,” Urban said. “With children’s theatre, we make it a mix of finding that balance between representational theatre but also presentational where we actually
acknowledge the audience and break that fourth wall so the children themselves play almost another character in the show.”
Urban said during the play characters will interact directly with the audience, asking questions to the kids about moral issues in the story.
Every school is different and so is each audience. Urban said there was an element of unpredictability that went along with everything. With crowds of rowdy children, anything can happen.
Markus Adams, student, plays the role of the Fisherman and commented on the tours.
“[It’s] really fun, you have to adjust and lean on all the cast members because we have to bring all that stuff in and set up,” Adams said. “All the kids are going to be different from each school, too. So, getting different audiences [each time], you never know what you’re gonna get.”
Aside from fourth wall breaks, the play contains special lighting design elements like shadow puppetry, but also a dynamic set that grows along with the unfolding story. To do this, it requires coordination and repetition and was one of the group’s most daunting tasks to overcome.
“That was its own rehearsal process in and of itself,” Urban said. “The issue was figuring out choreography and costume changes, doing that seamlessly and having it go with the
action of the show.”
Beate Pettigrew, associate professor, Theatre, explained how she feels about the performance while overseeing its construction.
“It’s the work and the excitement and enthusiasm of putting everything together,” Pettigrew said. “It’s pretty spectacular.”
Since February, Urban and the troupe have worked on the show and have only recently traveled from school to school each Friday, doing as many as four shows in one day. Urban said though it can be stressful, the end result is worth it.
“It was fun doing a children’s play, you get that [desire] to really go above and beyond to really paint that picture for the kids,” Adams said. “Afterwards, it’s great getting to see how happy they are.”
Urban explained how she felt the performance could benefit its young audience.
“We’re able to perform for children who have never before experienced live theatre and it’s such a great honor to be able to expose them to that,” Urban said. “It might possibly affect them in a way that they otherwise wouldn’t experience.”
For actors involved, Urban believes, the ability to go on tour with a group is a rare and invaluable experience.
“I know of no other University even in the state of Kansas who provides that kind of opportunity for their college students,” Urban said. “It really sets them up to already have that experience under their belt before they even get their degree.”
Until May 4, the troupe will continue their tour, stopping finally at the Plaza branch of the Kansas City Public Library.
For more information, contact Aubrey Urban at firstname.lastname@example.org