On Stage in Natomas: Gulliver’s Travels

Photo by Carrie Markel

Photo by Carrie Markel

THE NATOMASBUZZ | @natomasbuzz

Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was first published in 1726, but you wouldn’t think so in the Natomas Charter School’s production of this fantasy satire.

gullivers travelsOpening to the public at the Benvenuti Performing Arts Center on Friday, Feb. 28, this multi-media event sails away on Saturday, March 1.

In the hands of faculty directors Chelsea Greninger, Joshua Landry and Carrie Markel and student director Shea Backes, the 21st century interpretation of Gulliver’s encounters with the folks, flora and fauna in Lilliput and Brobdingnag is a refreshing take on an English studies standard.

Welcoming the audience into the theater is the combined sound of keyboards, performed by student conductor Alexa Monserret, and the marimba. Monserret has her hands full conducting students playing trumpets, xylophone, marimba, bass drum, temple blocks, bongos, djembe, keyboards, trombone, saxophone, shakers and a rain stick.

All music was composed by Natomas Charter School students and aids as a guide while Gulliver recalls his adventures and the original score becomes a performer, much like the live actors.

Greninger explained that students from other areas worked on this production, including sculpture students who helped create some of the large pieces and some of the sculptural details of the costumes. Befitting a story of adventure, fantasy and satire, the costumes are brightly colored, ruffled and awash in lace and satins.

In the written version, Lemuel Gulliver recalls his travels to four different lands where he encounters many people and cultures quite different from his. In this production, which runs approximately 45 minutes, Gulliver tells of his adventures in Lilliput, the land of the tiny people, and in Brobdingnag, the land of the giant people.

In both, Gulliver is faced with difficult questions, including whether an egg should be cracked on the small end or the large end.

Gulliver’s son learns of his father’s adventures through the use of live action, technology, film, music, human shadow figures, shadow puppets and marionettes. The inclusion of so many elements creates a rich telling of Gulliver’s meeting with the Lilliputians and the Emperor who wants to use Gulliver as a weapon of war. The securing with ropes of the shipwrecked Gulliver alone is worth the price of admission.

For those familiar with the written tale or filmed versions, expect to encounter some changes which make this production appropriate for all ages. Younger audience members will delight at the use of puppets, color and movement, while older audience members will relate to some of the underlying concepts.

When Gulliver reaches Brobdingnag, he is turned into a tiny harvest god.

“Father, you were just a puppet,” points out Gulliver’s son.

The giant Gulliver eats tiny plants and animals, and the tiny Gulliver fights giant wasps. The ability of the students to create these complex scenes in challenging and exciting ways may leave audience members asking how it was all done or they may follow the lead of Gulliver’s son.

“But Father, can all of this really be true.”

Tickets are available for pre-purchase online at a reduced rate ($8 – $10) or at the box office on the day of the show ($13 – $15). The scheduled performances are at 7 p.m. on February 28 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on March 1, 2014.

The Benvenuti Performing Arts Center is located at 4600 Blackrock Drive, Sacramento, CA 95835. For more information, see www.benarts.org.

Photo by Carrie Markel

Photo by Carrie Markel

Speak Your Mind