Ann Arbor’s Spinning Dot Theatre was founded in 2014 with a special focus on presenting international plays for children and families. In the past three years, Spinning Dot has presented eleven plays ranging from Japan, South Africa, Australia, Germany, South Korea, Denmark, and Kosovo, among others, presenting “baby plays” for the youngest theatergoers, as well as plays aimed at elementary-age children. Their next production, The Ogreling, is aimed especially at teens and their families. “Our goal,” says Spinning Dot founder Jenny Anne Koppera, “is to make great global theater to inspire and connect our audiences with the rest of the world.” We asked her about The Ogreling.
Can you give us some background on the story?
The Ogreling, by Suzanne Lebeau of Canada, is a dark and wondrous play about a boy coming of age, discovering his otherness, and coming to grips with who he is and who he might become. Lebeau is an award-winning playwright who focuses much of her work on young audiences from 12-25 years of age with themes and stories that stretch what audiences, especially US audiences, expect from ‘children’s theater.’ We are so excited to be in the midst of creating one of Lebeau’s plays aimed at teen audiences, since that is a genre often overlooked by mainstream theater in the US.
The Ogreling was written 20 years ago and has been performed around the world, yet this will be its US premiere.
Tell us about your production.
We are incorporating a variety of shadow puppetry styles on screens and shadow-play with mobile lighting on the actors themselves to hint at the psychological drama of this play. We are also using other sensory experiences such as the sense of smell and sound in the performance to wrap the idea of the forest and the world of the Ogreling around our audience. The shadows, music, and the intensity of the play combine for a unique and transformative trek into this ominous fairytale world.
The story places the lead character, the Ogreling, into very concerning circumstances that deeply impact his future, his safety and the safety of those around him. As his mother seeks to keep his true nature a secret to protect him, it is only a matter of time before he must learn about who he is and what that sets into motion. He must pass through trials – will he succeed?
It’s the suspense that makes this play so heated, so daring, so different from other theater for teen and family audiences. We are framing this play as one with exciting tempo and the emotional fraying of our characters as they journey.
This play brings up questions to consider even after we leave the theater. It’s all about considering otherness and what we do to hide our otherness and how brave we are to face it and embrace it.
The Ogreling will be performed August 17-20, 2017, 8pm each night, at The Riverside Arts Center, 76 N. Huron St., Ypsilanti. Suggested donation is $10. Tickets are available 30 minutes befroe showtime on a first-come, first-served basis. For more info, visit SpinningDot.org. The Ogreling will also have a second run in the lead up to Halloween in October 2017.