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Recreating the magic of saturday morning cartoons through theater

Photo: Joshua Huston


If you noted the passing of Saturday morning cartoons from network TV in early October, your kids probably didn’t — thanks to Netflix, DVDs and other immediate-gratification technology.

But while you can’t bond over Saturday morning cartoons, there’s still Saturday Morning Cartoons, a stage show by a quintet of local playwrights who bonded with their own kids by co-writing short, cartoon-inspired plays together.

The shows are at 10:30 a.m., Nov. 8, 15 and 22 — all Saturday mornings — at The Pocket Theater, 8312 Greenwood Ave. N. Jammies are optional.

Saturday Morning Cartoons is a lighter offering from B-Sides & Rarities, which had been doing darker and more adult performances since 2010, following the death of fringe-theater mainstay Christopher Nellis.

“Our thought was that adults understand the mystique behind Saturday morning cartoons,” said communications director Jim Jewell. “And I tried to explain it to my daughter, who grew up with cartoons on demand, and she didn’t understand it. She said, ‘There was one morning when you watched all the cartoons?’”

He co-wrote Feline Fitness with his 11-year-old daughter, Olivia. “It’s a cat-and-mouse story where the cat is being trained by the mouse — although it’s clear that the mouse is a shyster, just getting what he wants out of the cat.”

Jewell said the short plays “all have the sort of manic energy and storytelling that could only come from kids.”

Even some of the titles do.

Photo: Joshua Huston


Playwright Paul Mullin wrote Magical Man and the Space Needle of Hideousness with his boys, Keelan, 9, and Declan, 12.

Mullin, a 2008 Stranger Genius Award-winner, said they used characters from other plays they’d concocted to act out in their living room. The elevator pitch, so to speak:

“An alien from another dimension has an ongoing battle with Roger Wickersham, who has a Ph.D. in evil from Washington State University. He’s trying to get back to his dimension and Roger Wickersham is trying to keep him here, and they have a battle on the Space Needle — which turns into a flying saucer.”

Mullin describes a co-writing process that stops short of being tyrannical on his part: “We bicker a little bit, but ultimately I win because I’m the one typing. They have great ideas, but almost no interest in revision. I just exercise editorial control.” 

Recalling her own enthusiasm for the weekly cartoon ritual, playwright Marcy Rodenborn said, “I still have the vivid memory of getting up, turning on the TV and my mom coming out and saying, ‘It’s Friday.’”

Rodenborn wrote Don’t Touch That Dial with daughter Penelope Venturini, 10. It’s a SpongeBob SquarePants parody that features characters coming out of a big TV screen and taking over a house.

“She’s watched me writing, and from the age of 4 or 5 on, she was like, ‘I’m going to write a play, too.’ I thought it would be fun.”

As any established writer knows, collaboration can also be delicate, if not occasionally prickly.

On their back-and-forth, Rodenborn said, “She came up with it. I wrote most of it. She went back over it and gave me a couple of suggestions. From a young age she was like, ‘This is my artistic voice and this is your artistic voice.’”

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