Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Theater: “The Story of Crow Boy”

 

Story of Crow Boy Bruce Silcox Minneapolis Star Tribune

In the Heart of the Beast play In the Heart of the Beast, pho­to cred­it: Bruce Sil­cox, Min­neapo­lis Star­Tri­bune

There are sev­er­al excel­lent, insight­ful reviews of The Sto­ry of Crow Boy, on stage Feb­ru­ary 18–28, 2016, at Min­neapo­lis’ (MN) In the Heart of the Beast Pup­pet and Mask The­atre. Links to these reviews are below, and I won’t restate their con­tent here except to reit­er­ate that the work tells the sto­ry of the Calde­cott Hon­or (1956) book Crow Boy’s author and illus­tra­tor, Taro Yashima (the pen name of Atsushi Iwa­mat­su).

Crow Boy, Taro YashimaWhat I do wish to remark upon in this lit­er­ary venue is the gen­e­sis of this show, a seed plant­ed decades ago through the pages of a pic­ture book into the cre­ative, bril­liant, inspired mind and spir­it of a teenaged Sandy Spiel­er (one of the founders of In the Heart of the Beast Pup­pet and Mask The­atre, and its artis­tic direc­tor since 1976). The book even­tu­al­ly brought Spiel­er to the larg­er sto­ry of its author/illustrator, which she and her amaz­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors bring to joy­ful, painful, pierc­ing, and ulti­mate­ly hope­ful life on the stage.

Take heed and take heart, those of you who are mak­ers of books for the young. Your sto­ries mat­ter, these works of first Art you cre­ate for chil­dren through text and through pic­tures. Write and draw truth and joy and friend­ship and pow­er and over­com­ing and the exquis­ite nat­ur­al world and human expe­ri­ence. Your sto­ries bur­row and blos­som in still-mal­leable young minds; they are busy nur­tur­ing roots of strength and pur­pose and hope and trans­for­ma­tion long after you have turned your own atten­tion toward oth­er tales.97

If you are able to attend the Heart of the Beast show, please know that there are some extreme­ly intense and soul sear­ing seg­ments in the work, doc­u­ment­ing por­tions of this world’s evil his­to­ry that must be remem­bered. The stag­ing expands our under­stand­ing of atroc­i­ties as they affect indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies, even though we can’t pos­si­bly com­pre­hend the true mag­ni­tude of loss and dev­as­ta­tion behind those flash­es with which we are pre­sent­ed. The show is def­i­nite­ly not for chil­dren. (The theatre’s pub­lic­i­ty states that the “show is rec­om­mend­ed for age 11 and old­er.”)

The intri­cate inter­play of pup­petry, pro­jec­tions, masks, human actors, and music in the show is seam­less, inspired and often mag­i­cal. Small moments such as the book-lov­ing boy pup­pet Taro snug­gling to sleep lit­er­al­ly between the cov­ers of a book, and lat­er launch­ing into a brief moment of flight from his perch on the pages will trans­fix any bibliophile’s heart.

The Story of Crow BoyThe pro­gram notes cite Taro Yashima’s ded­i­ca­tion “against all odds, to a tena­cious belief in the abil­i­ty of art to trans­form the world.” Cer­tain­ly Art that is made espe­cial­ly for children—and actu­al­ly for children—does have this capac­i­ty, since chil­dren are the ones who may be able to ulti­mate­ly trans­form this world. Thank you, children’s book mak­ers, for giv­ing them seeds of inspi­ra­tion and strength through your books.

At Heart of the Beast, a Children’s Book Grows Up” by Euan Kerr, Min­neso­ta Pub­lic Radio News

Crow Boy Takes Flight at Heart of the Beast,” by Gray­don Roye, Min­neapo­lis Star Tri­bune

Heart of the Beast Pup­pet The­ater Takes Flight with Crow Boy,” by Chris Hewitt, St. Paul Pio­neer Press

HOBT’s Much Antic­i­pat­ed The Sto­ry of Crow Boy on Stage Feb 18–28,” press release, Phillips West News

A descrip­tion of the play from In the Heart of the Beast’s web­site:

The Sto­ry of Crow Boy explores the intrigu­ing life sto­ry of Taro Yashima who wres­tled with human bru­tal­i­ty, racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, and the rav­ages of WWII to build work of social con­science, com­pas­sion­ate insight, poet­ic visu­al form, and ultimately—of joy. Yashima reminds us what it means to be human, and offers under­stand­ing into the com­plex­i­ties of cul­tur­al sur­vival. This pro­duc­tion draws on his auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal and fic­tion­al books includ­ing the Calde­cott Hon­or Award-win­ning Crow Boy (1956) about a young boy who learns to sing the “voic­es of crows” in defi­ance of his years of being bul­lied.

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