The Snowy Day is a show like no other. Dramatic lighting effects, the simplicity of shadow puppets, and three lone actors come together to tell a classic story of childhood joy. In an age of sensory onslaught of sights and sounds faster than we can process, The Snowy Day invites the audience to slow down, to look and listen, to remember how it feels for a child to discover and explore their world.
Seattle Children’s Theatre's newest production combines the classic book by Ezra Jack Keats with three of his other stories to form a show that centers on the character of Peter. The show opens with Peter waking up to the magic of a new snowfall. From making snow angels to running from a big kids' snowball fight, Peter’s experiences are common ground for both the children and adults in the audience and when Peter learned that the snowball he put in his coat pocket for safekeeping had melted, empathy filled the theater with a palpable sense of communal sadness. The joys and sadness of childhood connect us to universal truths and to each other.
The show goes on to include three other adventures with Peter. In the first, Peter learns to whistle for his dog. If you have ever watched a child attempt to whistle for the first time, you can imagine how funny this scene was. Mikell Sapp as Peter shines in both his exaggerated attempts to produce the magical whistling sound and his euphoric victory dance upon his success.
The second story after the Snowy Day is called "Goggles"! Peter and his friend Archie find a pair of super cool goggles in the park. Some older kids try to take them away but through some crazy antics, ingenuity, and the help of Willie the dog, they are able to evade the older kids. The celebratory song, “We Got the Goggles,” is the perfect blend of funk and childhood sing-song silliness. It is exactly the type of song a kid might sing over and over, and over again.
In the final story, "A Letter to Amy", we get a glimpse of a slightly older Peter as he learns about the difficulties of communication. Peter writes a letter to Amy to invite her to his birthday party. In one of the funniest moments of the show, he must sneak past Amy’s house to get to the mailbox. Amy’s parrot and Peter’s dog make a ruckus and almost give away his presence. In this older version of Peter, we are reminded how hard it can be to say what you mean, and how fear of another person’s reaction can hold you back. Peter is growing up, and his stories remind us of the rites of passage that are true for all of us.
Just like Keats books, the show is light on words. The simplicity of the shadow puppets and beautifully projected backgrounds is powerfully reminiscent of Keats' artwork. Many of the kids in the audience were restless and squirmy at the start as they had trouble adjusting to the unique set and slow pace. At one point a child in the row ahead of me said, “I thought this was a play. This isn’t a play.” Indeed the first part of the show felt more like a library story time with elaborate visuals than conventional live theater. However, the beauty of the show worked it's magic and the young audience fell under the spell of the captivating stories. The additional stories in the show had a more balanced mix of live action with actors and shadow puppets and the audience by then had grasped the concept and could connect to Peter in both his live actor and shadow puppet form.
In addition to sharing in Peter’s story and nudging the audience to recall their own experiences, the show also presents the audience with ideas of new ways of telling stories. In an age where all things are digital, the art of shadow puppets presents a mode of storytelling that is both simplistic and elaborate at the same time. Whether it’s by taking up their pens and crayons or cardboard cutouts taped to pencils and lit by flashlights, my hope is that the kids in the audience will be not only reminded of the stories in their own lives but also inspired to be creative about how they tell them.
In the end, we are brought back full circle to the heart of SCT’s mission – theater is for everyone. For we all have stories, and we are all storytellers.
IF YOU GO:
Where: Seattle Children’s Theatre 201 Thomas Street Seattle, WA 98109
When: Now through February 26th. Thursdays and Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays at 2pm and 5:30pm, and Sundays at 11am and 2:30pm.
Cost: Tickets start at $22 but rush tickets may be available one hour prior to curtain for $18.
Contact: www.sct.org or 206-441-3322
Kelly Rogers Flynt is a freelance write based out of Lake Forest Park and the mother of two children who fondly remember their own first snowy days.