Kirk Hears the Darnedest Things
After introducing and mediating performances of Heron + Crane over three different production seasons, from central Austin to downtown Manhattan, from Pflugerville to Florence, you'd think I'd be ready for anything... But with each location and every show, I always encounter a new surprise. There always manages to be at least one kid who says something unexpected and delightful. Whether shocking, moving, hilarious, or just plain random, it's a special (and sometimes humbling) experience to encounter the honesty of children in this context. Here's a sampling of a few (twelve, to be exact) of my favorite responses that kids have made during Heron + Crane. ''From the mouths of babes,'' as they say...
''You are a rabbit! You! Are! A! RABBIT!!''
One little boy in Manor was convinced that a heron was a kind of rabbit, not a bird at all. He was very frustrated when Michelle put on wings, so he just couldn't hold back from demanding that she look like a rabbit instead (until his teacher calmed him down)... I guess he was thinking of a ''hare?''
This was at Florence elementary in response to Jude asking "What kinds of animals are herons and cranes?" Or maybe the child was just expressing a deep-seated phobia? Jude went along with it and started hissing...
''Well, I'm a vegetarian, so I don't eat fish.''
A very poised young lady at Bryker Woods was so concerned about the birds' natural eating habits that she wasn't able to answer whatever question I'd actually asked. I quickly assured her that one of the actors was a vegetarian, too, and that it was only his character who ate fish... as waterfowl do in the wild. She wasn't remotely appeased.
''My mommy and I like to make cupcakes together.''
I always try to get the kids to suggest an activity that Heron and Crane could enjoy together in their effort to get along, which the actors then improvise. This was one of my favorite suggestions from our VORTEX run, since it involved the revelation of Heron's invisible kitchen in the swamp, which apparently included a quick-bake oven.
''Hey, my name is Sammy!''
A kid in New York was really excited that he shared a first name with our Fringe venue manager. He raised his hand at the very beginning of the show to share this information with me, right as I'd entered and was about to introduce out the actors. Instead, Sammy (the kid, not the venue manager) introduced me to his entire family (I don't remember their names).
''I like to go to school to get away from my mom.''
An older student in New York, when asked what some of their favorite activities were. I agree with the Wall Street Journal that this response was one ''can of worms'' not to touch. After the audience laughter died down, I said ''OK'' and moved on... (I mean, the mom was right there!)
''They should kiss!''
From a precious pre-kindergartner at Menchaca elementary, at the very top of the talk-back section. I was about to ask ''Why do you think Heron and Crane are having trouble being friends?'' I told him that this was an excellent solution for a different kind of story...
''Well, she's beautiful, and he's... hahahaha... he's... hahahaha... he's CRAZY!!''
An enthusiastic girl who came to our workshop at the Children's Museum of Manhattan was so tickled by the show what she could barely get out the words to answer my query of ''what do you notice that's different about the characters?'' Her answer was certainly accurate-- but personally, I think that they're BOTH beautiful and BOTH crazy.
''Oh, I've read this... Is this the story about the wolf who gets a bone caught in its throat?''
Another top-of-the show response, from a student in Round Rock who very politely raised his hand as soon as he learned that the story was a Russian folk-tale. I think I may have disappointed him when I told him there was no wolf in this show...
This was from Pleasant Hill, and is possibly the only time I've seen Michelle almost laugh on stage. She'd just inquired ''What would we need to look like birds?'' We've actually heard this response a few times since then, but that first time was unforgettable, said as it was so matter-of-factly. (Usually the kids say ''feather'' or ''wings.'')
''Um, they're both white.''
This curve-ball came after I asked what Jude (who's Hispanic) and Lisa (who's Filipino) have in common. So far, the only time I ever invalidated a kid's response; after several seconds of a stunned pause, I finally said "Actually, they're not."
''They both have a heart.''
This answer literally took my breath away; a little bilingual boy in the back row of what was probably our most engaged and involved audience ever, at Oak Springs in East Austin, said this in response to the same question. I had to take a moment to hold back the tears. With that simple answer, I knew for sure that our show was accomplishing something special in its quest to help kids articulate the importance of diversity and compassion.
1. What is your code name?
2. What are some of your favorite quotes?
“I do not agree with a word you’ve just said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” – Voltaire.
“My cat’s breath smells like cat food” - Ralph Wiggum.
3. What is your spirit animal?
The penguin. Is that too obvious?
4. Do you have an allegiance to any particular fictional character, cartoon, or celebrity?
5. What is the first thing you'd buy with a million dollar inheritance from a long-lost relative?
A shuttle-plane trip into near-space to experience zero gravity. Plus a REALLY big box of cheese crackers.
6. If you could have a super-power, what would it be?
The ability to control a blinding flash of light to appear on one of my front teeth, accompanied simultaneously by a high-pitched “DING!”
7. What were you hoping no one would find out about you?
When I was a kid, I thought volleyball was called “ball-ee-ball.” I also thought orangutans were called “Orange Gootans.”
8. What would be the title of your first book?
There the Puppies Went.
9. What are your power foods?
In the summertime, orange creamsicles.
10. And in winter?
Mmm… hot polenta.
11. What is your theme song?
Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head.
12. Are you a ninja, a pirate, or a cowboy?
I am a Pirate KING!
13. Do you “double” as anything else?
A robot animal pop-star from Showbiz Pizza, circa 1986!
Saturday, February 23, 2008
In the midst of rehearsing for Just Say DA!: Direct Object, Kirk talks about his relationship with objects over the years…
For about a year, I think during kindergarten, I was obsessed with a magical drawer in my (pre-renovation) childhood kitchen. Like the rest of the room, it was painted a questionable shade of late-60’s avocado green and it had an awkwardly peeling, slightly off-center crimson knob. The drawer itself wasn’t important, except for the function it served as a treasure chest for the fantastic delights resting in a happy hodgepodge within… spatulas, melon-ballers, corkscrews, turkey basters, a heavy-duty ladle that didn’t mess around, and a set of tongs to build a dream on. And dream I did. These culinary accoutrements became the major players in a rich storyline which, by five-year-old standards, was truly epic.
All of the archetypal characters were there: the heroic melon-baller (his name was usually Melvin) who had to leave the comfort of his home drawer to journey to Fruit Bowl Island (and beyond!), an adventure fraught with peril and colanders; his ballerina corkscrew girlfriend and best friend spatula (the floppy one for cake-spreading, not the rigid one for flapjack-flipping - that was the teacher/mentor figure, obviously) sometimes came with him, but other times it was a solo adventure, requiring all his naive pluck and inborn melon-balling instincts to make it past the chamber entry and into the dark, uncharted territory of … the living room. How many wondrous afternoons were whiled away with just my stories and a jumbled handful of utensils?
Eventually, I moved on from imagining our kitchen as Wonderland, at approximately the same time that the room underwent a major overhaul, the puke palette replaced by more tasteful cabinets of blonde wood accompanied by smoky sky-blue countertops. But as other rooms and other drawers came and went, no utilitarian items ever quite captured or enraptured me in the same awkwardly makeshift yet thoroughly engrossing way. When I visit my parents house now, I occasionally open their newer, blander equivalent of the erstwhile drawer and am shocked to find it organized and shiny, but with the lingering palpable presence of a few old friends…
Heron & Crane in its THIRD year of Flight!
Kirk continues to love working on DA!'s kids show, Heron and Crane! He is thrilled about the ongoing collaboration with so many of DA!'s talented members, and he still can't quite believe that the show nested so beautifully in NEW YORK last August as part of FringeJR! Kirk facilitates a discussion with the young audience before the final scene of each performance, and he is constantly delighted by the varied responses he gets at the different venues, his favorites so far being: "My mommy and I like to make cupcakes together!" and "YOU ARE A RABBIT!"
Easy Street in Zilker Park
Mr. German had a blast and half performing in Annie last summer in the villainous role of Rooster at the Zilker Hillside Theatre as part of Austin's oldest and biggest performing arts tradition! The fun must have translated across the footlights, because the role earned him a B. Iden Payne nomination for Best Featured Actor in a Musical!
Furiously Scribbling Away
DA!'s resident playwright continues to spend some solid bouts of Quality Time with a pencil and paper... Revisiting old scripts, generating some new stories, and seeing if that Great American Drama is finally ready to be born! In the meantime, his semi-autobiographical comedic collaboration with Joe Hartman, International House of Perception, will debut at the Frontera Fest Short Fringe in February as a 2011 ScriptWorks Commission!
is a third-generation Austinite who has been
performing since the age of nine, chiefly in central Texas and central Vermont. In Austin, he has been seen in Guys and Dolls, Floyd Collins, and My
Favorite Year (Zilker Theatre Productions), Damn Yankees and Kiss
Me Kate (Austin Playhouse), Big River and The Music Man
(TexArts at the Paramount), Cosi Fan Tutte (Austin Lyric Opera), Batboy:
The Musical (Arts on Real), Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge
(Different Stages), Hello Muddah / Hello Fadduh at the J (2006 B. Iden
Payne Award for Outstanding Cast), and The Page and the Caterpillar
(2007 B. Iden Payne nomination) with Second Youth Family Theatre.
DA is a not-for-profit collective under the sponsorship of HPT
DA! Theatre Collective 511 W 43rd St Austin TX 78751
512 479-7530 x 5