Tim Trumble Photo
Childsplay, a professional theatre company based in Tempe, Arizona, brings the popular 1970s cartoon series to life with updated music and multi-media special effects.
The show takes place at The Orpheum on Friday, November 14, at 6:30 p.m. For tickets, go here.
Memphis Parent Calendar Editor Meena Viswanathan spoke to Eric Boudreau, actor, and teaching artist at Childsplay, to find out more about this new, live production.
Memphis Parent: Did you ever watch the original Schoolhouse Rock show? How does the play differ?
Eric Boudreau: I saw many segments when I was in school back in the 1990s and I’ve watched it on YouTube. I do remember the images. Like in “Conjunction Junction,” they sing about the connecting words: And, But, and Or, using train engines. Every time I think about that song, those images come to mind. We don’t use the actual animation, though. Instead, we have our own visuals projected onto the set behind us.
MP: This is the fourth time Childsplay has produced the show since 2001. What’s special about this updated version?
Boudreau: The show is usually done with six members. In this hour-long version, just four of us sing the 15 songs. I think the best part is the music. We have taken the original folk music and made it more modern.
MP: I understand the set design was inspired by the video games Tetris and Minecraft. How does this enhance the show?
Boudreau: Our lighting and set designers, Tim Monson and Holly Windingstad, have pooled their creative talents to provide a unique theatrical experience. We took the bright lights and haze effects, giving the show a rock concert feel. Our set incorporates features from the video games Minecraft and Tetris (popular in the 1980s). Parents and kids alike will be reminded of their childhoods. At Childsplay, we want to create a show where the entire family can have their special moments. We want them to have a conversation on the car ride back home about what they saw.
MP: Necessity is often the mother of invention. Ad agency executive David McCall created this series in 1973 when his son was having trouble memorizing his multiplication tables, yet could remember the words of rock-n-roll songs. The original songs were based on folk or jazz tunes. How do the new songs compare?
Boudreau: Music director Alan Ruch didn’t want to completely redo everything. He wanted to keep it consistent with what the original songs were. I think what we came up with are some wonderful choices and the kids are going to enjoy rocking with us.
MP: Childsplay’s mission is to offer thought-provoking theater to children. How does your show accomplish this?
Boudreau: I think kids will realize learning can be fun. It’s not always just about sitting in front of a book and memorizing words. One thing we stress in our post-show Q & A is that there are many different ways to learn. We always want to challenge kids to go out and learn something in a new way. For example, go outside and explore nature, take pictures, and then make your own little photography book about it. Everyone learns differently and I think School House Rock celebrates that.