Seeing fairytale characters come to life is pretty overwhelming stuff for a kindergartner to process; but I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed watching her do so, her blue eyes wide with wonder.
This was magic in action Bring on the fairy dust.
This feeling of enchantment set the tone for the day’s event: a matinee performance of the children’s musical The Near-Sighted Knight and the Far-Sighted Dragon at the new home of Joplin’s Stained Glass Theatre.
As we merged with the throng of people making its way into the compact theater, I silently prayed that the performance wasn’t sold out. The theater doesn’t pre-sell tickets, but the box office opens 45 minutes before performance time.I breathed a sigh of relief when we finally secured some of the last tickets for this popular show – I doubt that my daughter would be speaking to me right now if we hadn’t. As we stepped inside the auditorium, a costumed performer handed my daughter a brown paper bag and said, “Don’t open this bag until the fairy godmother tells you to.” Ah, a fairy godmother and mysterious instructions. These people were speaking my daughter’s language!
My daughter was giddy with excitement, her hand clutching the paper bag in a vice-like grip.Before the performance began, the play’s directors Shannon and Karl Wendt introduced themselves to the audience, then brought out a keyboard and began singing songs that called for audience participation, songs that were downright silly and caused uproarious laughter to reverberate throughout every nook and cranny of the theater.The play itself was set in medieval times and its theme focused on “perspective,” with characters learning to approach certain situations from other points of view in order to achieve a resolution to some conflict.While that sounds like a dry, even preachy topic, the musical was anything but. There was so much comedy, both in the words and the actions of the characters, that it spoke to everyone in an entertaining way.
For example, the prison guards’ Stooge-like comedy had me wiping tears from my eyes. At one point, they broke into a song/cheer routine that was like a Will Ferrell/Cheri Oteri cheerleader skit from Saturday Night Live. Utter hilarity!My daughter’s favorite parts (aside from dragon scenes) were the ones where the action of the play was interrupted by the fairy godmother addressing the children in the audience and instructing them to open their paper bags and pull out a certain object which would help a character in the scene when the action resumed. Here’s my daughter after finding a cookie in the bag (I can’t remember how the cookie was helpful in the scene, but it sure looked delicious!)
What an inventive way to encourage participation from the children in the audience! My daughter was over the moon by being a part of it.What is this Stained Glass Theatre?This organization defines itself as an artistic ministry, encouraging members of the Joplin community to use their talents in a venue that promotes family-friendly expression. With such a noble cause, it might seem that would be a stuffy group, but it is anything but.The characters and dialogue in the play were laid back and fun, and the seven playful, contemporary songs that director Karl Wendt wrote and added to the score (with permission of the playwrights, of course) made the play even more relatable.
But Stained Glass Theatre’s productions aren’t just geared to children; other productions this season include Arsenic and Old Lace, and Little Women.This is an exciting time at Stained Glass Theatre , as it settles into its new home after being displaced when the 2011 tornado tore through Joplin. The previous theater was located right next to St. John’s Hospital, and three people perished there during the storm.Since then, Stained Glass Theatre has been welcomed at various temporary locations throughout town, and has continued to put on productions during its nomadic existence.After receiving a boost from a tornado recovery grant, Stained Glass Theatre was able to renovate an old church in the southwest part of Joplin to call its new home. Its simple exterior blends in with the modest buildings in the surrounding quiet residential neighborhood, but don’t let that fool you.Magic lies within, waiting for the moment when joy and enthusiasm walk in, transforming the small stage into an endless world of fantasy.Which, of course, includes dragons.
Stained Glass Theatre is located at 2101 Annie Baxter in Joplin.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.