Everything Enchantment Theatre Company produces for the stage is original material. We do not use existing scripts that have been performed elsewhere. Each show is completely created by Enchantment, based on a fairy tale, fable or other classic story for children. The music is written specifically to support the show, and masks, puppets, costumes and sets are built for our exclusive use.
Why is originality important? It demonstrates, for one thing, our thoroughgoing respect for children. We believe they deserve theatrical productions that are as carefully and thoughtfully crafted as shows created for adults. We want what our audiences see to be consistent with that respect, and different from the commercialized and often superficial products that are staged for children. One of our colleagues in Philadelphia, Thea Diamond, director of education at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Center, says that “mass marketing often panders to our worst instincts, desensitizing children to violence…rather than opening their eyes and hearts, refining their emotions…and transporting them beyond the known to new realms.” We couldn’t agree more. Having to think through an adaptation of a classic tale from start to finish demands a level of insight into children’s needs and perceptions of the world that is not always available in other approaches.
This commitment to originality takes the investment of considerable time and resources, but most of all it demands of us that children take top priority in what we do. We know that our productions are appreciated by the adults who accompany children to our shows, whether family members or classroom teachers. We also know that some adults, especially the elderly, attend our shows without children. But children come first in our thinking and planning. We aim to create a totally new world for them on stage, one that has never been seen before. We think that too much of what children experience today on the stage, on television, and in the movies has been unnecessarily “dumbed down” or styled in cartoon fashion. A teacher whose class attended one of our performances said that in contrast, “Enchantment takes them to a world beyond their current perception of reality,” which she said is an experience of particular value for urban children.
Our production of The Velveteen Rabbit is a good example of what it takes to be original. We used the story outline of Margery Williams’ classic book, but we brought the characters to life in a totally original way. To do this, we combined puppets and live actors in a musical setting as contemporary as today’s Broadway, but used techniques that have their roots in such ancient theatrical traditions as Indonesian shadow puppets or the mime from commedia dell’arte. That combination is both unusual and original.