Pointless Brewery appeals to kids with spunky story
ANN ARBOR, Mich.–You may not think of a brewery as the place that the under-8 crowd will gather, but Pointless Brewery & Theatre has set out to change your opinion on that.
At 10:30 a.m. on Saturdays between now and Oct. 1, the company is presenting The Spunky Sprite and the Endless Night: A Sing-a-Long Play for Little Ones. The new work is specifically designed for ages 0-8 and co-written by the ensemble that performs it.
It’s a show that begins long before the metaphorical curtain goes up on the story. Pointless Brewery & Theater has set up interlocking cushioned tiles on the floor in front of the stage where the children can gather. There they are provided crayons and other toys and the members of the ensemble interact and play with them before the show. It’s all a part of getting them to be comfortable and familiar with the performers. It also invites them early to play and be a part of the show.
Children who tend to be shy, of course, are still welcome to sit with their parents in the chairs behind the play mats.
The play, directed by Tori Tomalia, tells a story of a young sprite who assists Mother Nature in waking up the world every day. She wants to do everything herself and spurns Mother Nature’s help, an action that ends up bringing on a dark night from which she cannot wake the spirits of light, air, water and earth. It is only when she accepts help—and enlists the children of the audience to save the day and turn back the night—that she is able to restore things to normal.
The story is told with lots of audience interaction, songs, dancing and exaggerated movement. All of it is designed to reach out to young children. That said, some of the storytelling and the metaphors used might be a little bit beyond the ability of the young audience members to understand. This is especially true in a sequence where Mother Nature pulls out a seed and the ensemble demonstrates how each of the spirits plays its role in making the seed grow into a flower. It’s a lovely narrative, but one that might be challenging for the youngest of audiences to follow.
What the audiences can identify with is the desire of the young sprite to do things on her own. The actress playing her (there was no program identifying which ensemble members played which roles) is bedecked in ponytail braids and a set of overalls. She is eager to help and wants to do it all on her own—much like the children in the audience. She pouts when Mother Nature insists on giving her help and stomps her way through to doing it her way with a stubbornness that any parent recognizes. She is charismatic and adorable—and no one can blame Mother Nature for not being able to resist her.
The ensemble members do a wonderful job of embodying their spirits—from the twinkling of light to the heavy, grounded movements and claps of earth. Each has their own special movements and some of them give gifts to the audience when playing out their part—transparent, golden pieces of cloth for light, light mistings of water from a spray bottle for water, leaves for earth.
Ensemble members are Tyler Calhoun, Ashely Davis, Geoff Grecynski, Havah Roussel, Michelle Weiss, and Lauren Zamiska and they are credited with writing the show collaboratively. Music direction and composition was by Christian James, who played on a keyboard throughout the show, helping to provide a soundtrack of sound effects and melodies.
The Spunky Sprite and the Endless Night works because it encourages the children in the audience to wiggle, move and play along throughout the 40 minutes of the show. The story has a moral that many of that age can relate to and plays it out with a sweetness that keeps the story appealing and spurns lecturing. What’s even more important, for this age group, is all that the ensemble does to create an experience for young people before the show and during it.