What to know – before the show!
Our story starts in the bedroom of a young person named Adrien, who is playing with stuffed animals and having them “duel” each other because one of them was teasing the dragon stuffy for liking both poetry and baseball. Adrien’s mom enters the room and asks why the stuffies are fighting, and learns that Adrien is getting picked on at school by a classmate named Sam. Mom encourages Adrien to find a less violent solution to the problem, and that night, Adrien dreams of a bright, colorful, video-game-like world where a story begins to unfold.
A dragon moves into the hillside near a peaceful village, and Adrien’s mom (who now looks an awful lot like a video game character) is terrified. After all, everyone knows that dragons are monstrous beasts who steal treasure and terrorize villages! She insists that Adrien go confront the dragon and bring along a “weapon” (a baseball bat) and “armor” (a baseball helmet) for safety. Adrien agrees, but doesn’t want to fight the dragon and instead hopes to learn about why he’s come to the village and offer a peaceful overture. Meanwhile, mom leaves, saying that she will go call for help to take down the dragon menace.
At the dragon’s cave, Adrien meets the dragon and quickly finds out that he’s a kind, artistic, and poetry-loving fellow named Diego who moved to the village to settle down and paint landscapes. He’s not at all the fearsome creature that everyone thinks he is! The two bond over their favorite poems and Diego asks Adrien to convince the villagers that he is not a threat and is, in fact, the perfect neighbor.
As Adrien walks back towards the village, a new character rushes onto the scene. Santiago the Warrior, a mustachioed man in blue overalls and fresh out of battle vocation school, has arrived to fight the fearsome dragon. It’s his first mission, and so far he’s only fought dragons in reality simulations, but he’s eager to prove himself. Adrien tries to explain to Santiago that Diego is a good dragon who isn’t going to hurt anyone, and convinces Santiago to come meet Diego. When the two of them arrive back at the cave, Santiago explains to Diego that he has been hired by the village to destroy the dragon, and he has to complete this mission. Adrien has to think quickly to figure out a solution – something that will allow Santiago to save face and keep Diego safe.
Then, Adrien thinks of the perfect idea – a baseball game! Neither Diego nor Santiago have played before, so Adrien can teach them both and they can have a game in front of the entire village. If Santiago wins, Diego must leave the hilltop. And if Diego wins, he gets to plead his case before the village elders. The two agree and Adrien begins coaching them on how to play. Diego isn’t naturally athletic but takes time to practice with Adrien and learn the rules. Santiago, meanwhile, is more focused on his “trash talk” and starts playing a baseball video game that he thinks will teach him everything he needs to know.
The day of the game arrives, and the entire village turns out to watch, while Adrien’s mom helps keep score. Santiago is up to bat first, and he quickly realizes that baseball is a lot more difficult in real life than in a video game! Diego manages to get him out before he scores any runs. Then, it’s Diego’s turn at the plate. First, he strikes out. He’s worried that he’s going to lose, but then Adrien calls a time out and tells Diego to take some deep breaths and believe in himself. And, on the next swing, Diego hits a home run! He’s won the game!
However, the village elders still don’t want to allow Diego to stay – so Adrien activates the backup plan. Since he lost, Adrien tells Santiago that he has to help them. Santiago explains to the villagers that he knows that Diego is a kind and peaceful dragon, and asks that if Diego and Adrien can bring the villagers some laughter and joy, they allow him to stay. Adrien and Diego perform a baseball comedy skit, and the village elders are so delighted they agree to give Diego a trial period on the hillside. Diego is ecstatic, but Santiago is worried because his career as a dragon-slayer is definitely over and he doesn’t know what he’s going to do next. When Adrien asks him what he would like to do, Santiago admits that he’s always wanted to learn how to paint. Diego immediately offers to teach Santiago!
Just as Diego and Santiago say thank you to Adrien, the dream world begins to fade away, and Adrien’s alarm clock rings! It’s a brand new day and time for school, and Adrien’s mom is excited to learn that the dream helped Adrien figure out how to handle the situation with Sam. Maybe the two of them can find common ground by playing a baseball game together! Adrien leaves for school, but not before thanking the stuffy versions of Santiago and Diego for all their help in the dream world, and promising that they’ll all play some more together tomorrow.
FROM PAGE TO STAGE
LCT’s production of A Reluctant Dragon is a stage adaptation of the book The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame. Books and plays are different from each other in that books are meant to be read while plays are meant to be acted out for audiences to see. Even more, books allow the reader to envision how the world of the story looks in their own imaginations, often with the help of illustrations, but plays have a group of actors, directors, and designers to bring the story to life using scenery, props, costumes, lighting, and sound.
Read the book The Reluctant Dragon to your class. Have the students discuss how the story can become a play. What would the costumes look like? How would you show or act out the fight between St. George and the Dragon on stage? Have students write about or draw their ideas then compare and contrast your students’ ideas with what Lexington Children’s Theatre does in their production.
KAS: TH:CR1.1.1.C; TH:CR3.1.2.C; TH:CN11.2.3.A
Some of your students may be familiar with the original story The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, or the Disney movie of the same title. Ask your students to compare and contrast different forms of storytelling. How do books differ from movies and plays? What things can you show in a film that you can’t accomplish on stage? Explain to your students that there are often hundreds of adaptations of popular stories and that the play they are going to see is a just one version of The Reluctant Dragon, one that is different from others they have seen on screen or read in a book.
Next, have students choose a favorite fairy tale character. Challenge them to put that character in a new adventure by writing a short story.
KAS: C.2.3.A-B; C.1.3.A-B; L.1.1; L.2.2
ON THE ROAD: STAGING A TOURING PRODUCTION
The creation of Lexington Children’s Theatre’s production of A Reluctant Dragon is a story of wits and heart all of its own. From choosing the script and casting actors to rehearsals and bringing all the designs to life, a great deal of time, preparation, and imagination goes into the realization of any theatre performance. What makes this production so special is that it tours. The actors pack everything needed for their performance and travel with it throughout the state of Kentucky and beyond. Keep reading to find out what it takes to get a stage production out on the road!
A production begins by reading and choosing scripts. The staff at Lexington Children’s Theatre goes through a series of Season Planning meetings in which they talk through what kinds of stories they’d be excited to tell. Staff members pitch show titles that the theatre might want to produce. They have to take into consideration many key factors such as target audience, budget and time constraints, cast and staffing requirements, and more. The Artistic Director then gathers what are called perusal scripts – copies of the play used to preview the story – and sends them out to the staff to read. From there, the staff discusses the scripts and narrows their choices down until they finally have a complete season. The process of choosing scripts begins at least a year in advance and can take several months to complete.
After a show title is chosen, it will move into the design process. This is when the artistic team meets to envision the world of the play. The director of the production collaborates with the designers in each of the technical areas (scenery, costumes, props, lights, sound, etc.) to figure out how things should look. The designers complete research and incorporate the director’s ideas with their own to create sketches, renderings, and models for all of the technical elements. The process begins at least three months before a show begins rehearsals and usually takes several weeks to complete, but once the director gives their final stamp of approval on the designs, the artistic team can begin construction on their elements.
For a touring production, everything needed to tell the story must be portable. This means that the actors must be able to break things down or store items away. Everything must fit into a truck that the actors pack, much like a game of Tetris. They then drive the truck to their next performance venue, unload everything to set it up, perform the show, break it down, load it back into the truck, and head to the next location.
Speaking of actors, how is the show cast? LCT’s Resident Director and Company Manager is responsible for casting the actors you see in the company’s professional touring productions. The Resident Director often travels to conferences just to meet with actors wanting to audition for the company or watches audition tapes submitted online. When a show title is selected, the Resident Director makes note of the show’s casting needs including how many actors are required and other specifics such as race/ethnicity or gender. An audition or casting notice is sent out letting actors know that we are searching for actors for a show, and actors who are interested submit their materials to the theatre for review. Once the show is cast, the actors will come in anywhere from 3-8 weeks before a production opens or begins its run to start rehearsals.
In a touring production like A Reluctant Dragon, the script calls for just four actors to play all the characters. The actors will often go in and out of character at a moment’s notice – sometimes without even changing costume pieces. It’s up to the actors, with help from the director, to physically and vocally differentiate the characters they play. Characters also have a costume piece or prop to help the audience recognize who they are. The actors spend several hours in rehearsal each day working out their blocking (where they move onstage), memorizing lines, tracking where costumes, props, and scenery pieces go, and more. After weeks of rehearsal, it’s finally time for the show to open!
The performance audiences get to see is the product of months and months of hard work. It takes about an hour of rehearsal for every minute of action you see onstage. A fully realized production takes dozens of individuals working together to bring a story to life, and regardless of performing in-house or being out on the road, the journey of a work of theatre from start to finish is a heroic one, indeed!
How to grow – after the show!
Download and copy the What Happened? page below for all the students in your class:What Happened? Activity
You may use the worksheet in one of two ways. First, have your students simply draw their favorite moment or scene from A Reluctant Dragon. This can be as simple as “my favorite moment was when Santiago was showing Adrien his fighting moves” or “my favorite scene was the baseball game.” Or you can choose to have the students work in teams to draw a specific scene from the play which you assign. When finished, have the students arrange their drawings in the proper sequence of events in the play. In both cases, you can create a “Castle of Scenes” using each student’s drawing as a brick in a castle. You can enhance the castle with a door, flags, moats, or whatever you can think to create!
EXTEND IT FURTHER: When students have finished their drawing, have them recreate the same scene using frozen images, or tableaux. Explain to the students that this is like taking a picture with a camera. They are freezing a moment of live action. Count down from three and call “freeze!” Then have the other students in the class guess which scene is being presented. Was it difficult to just do that one scene? What must it have been like for the actors in the play?
KAS: ELA:WR.3.3; ELA:WR.4.3; TH:Pr5.1.4.b
If you like classic fairy tales, you might also enjoy these books:
Hans Christian Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
This anthology includes eleven classic stories from The Princess and the Pea and The Emperor’s New Clothes to some of Hans Christian Andersen’s lesser-known, but equally wonderful stories.
The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame
The Boy is not at all surprised to find a Dragon living in the hillside. Naturally, the two soon become fast friends, and when St. George arrives to battle the Dragon, whom he’s sure must be a danger to the countryside, the Boy, the Dragon, and the Saint hold a surprising contest…which just might end up satisfying one and all.