When Alberta weather warms up, the arts move outdoors and there’s no more enjoyable family destination than the International Children’s Festival of the Arts.
Located in downtown St. Albert in a horseshoe shape configuration, it stretches from the banks of the Sturgeon River across to St. Anne Street and down St. Anne Promenade.
Shaped as one huge amusement park, it provides feature stage shows, live outdoor entertainment, roving artists, non-stop activity centres and of course on-site food trucks.
St. Albert Gazette reviewers are stopping by to check out the feature shows and we will post advance reviews on Wednesday and Thursday at www.stalbertgazette.com
Below is a sampling of what’s available and by-and-large the $13 ticket fee is a good investment.
The festival runs until Sunday, June 4. Tickets are available at the Arden box office in person or at 780-459-1542 or online at ticketmaster.ca.
The Man Who Planted Trees
Puppet State Theatre Company
école Father Jan
Runs until Friday, June 2
Recommended ages: seven and up
The Man Who Planted Trees is a heartwarming tale of a shepherd, his dog, and a visitor who frequents them over his life. Originally, the story was penned in 1953 by French author Jean Giono.
The story takes place in the south of France, and does include a few French words spoken. It spans a lifetime that covers two world wars, and tells the story of man who spends his life planting trees, turning a barren area into a lush forest. The extrasensory tale is made to life with the masterful puppet work of Scotland’s Puppet State Theatre Company, with a soundtrack filled with appropriate music as well as sound effects to accompany the story. The two use the sense of smell in a unique way that adds depth and personality to their performance.
Overall, the story was one both children and adults could enjoy. Their use of meta humor got more than a few chuckles from the teachers and volunteers in the audience, and the dog, conveniently named Dog, had the children in stitches from his first appearance. The story was endearing to all, and possibly planted the acorn of environmentalism to those in attendance. Take note of the recommended ages of 7 and up, as the story does take place over two world wars, there is reference to them and their consequences. The story also mentions both suicide and murder, although brief and non-descript. Overall, The Man Who Planted Trees is a wonderful story that all audiences will thoroughly enjoy.
– Sam Oleschuk
Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey
Save-On-Foods Stage: The Arden Theatre
Runs until Sunday, June 4
Recommended ages: all ages
Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey is techno adventure about a mouse, who, with the help of his only friend, a trusty alarm clock, manages to make it to the moon. Marvin, a meek mouse who is often bullied at his school, dreams of one day being a superhero like his idol Thor. He wants to stand up to his bullies at school, and win the heart of his crush.
The 60-minute performance by Livewire Theater is visually exhilarating, using LED lights to create Marvin and his world. The performance’s choreography is impressive and not at all intrusive. Moon Mouse’s soundtrack features a variety of popular music, including hip-hop, electric, and classic rock, including Elton John’s Rocket Man. There will be something to sing along to for people of all ages. There is very little dialogue, with the only words spoken coming from a news segment, but the spectacular use of music and ambient sound helped create a dramatic environment that was oftentimes surprisingly touching.
The props are all extremely well constructed, and the light shows will leave the children wide eyed. The performance is suitable for all ages, with the only PG content being a few choreographed fight scenes. The message that the audience is left with is one of compassion and understanding; differences should be celebrated, not mocked or teased. Moon Mouse: A Space Odyssey tells a relatable tale that children will take the heart, in a way that will leave them.
Pangaea Arts and ArtStage SAN
école Father Jan
Runs until Friday, June 2
Recommended ages: Eight years and older
At a time when stories about cultural differences make national headlines, Sangja, the collaboration between Vancouver’s Pangaea Arts and Seoul’s ArtStage SAN, brings out the humanity and beauty in diversity.
But it is not without struggle.
A South Korean toddler with no name is flown to Canada, his private stork a massive airplane that thunders down a tarmac and drops him into his adoptive parents loving arms.
He is named David McKenzie. A new name, a new start. But although his parents make small gestures keeping him connected to his birth country, David gradually loses his first language and sense of culture.
He struggles to fit in and be accepted by classmates. He struggles to be respected by teachers. Mostly, he’s in turmoil about sharing his feelings of alienation and hurting his adoptive parents.
Now a briefcase toting professional, David fantasizes about being reunited with his birth mother. A radio broadcast about South Korea’s national tragedy where unwanted children of single mothers are raised abroad spurs him to return to his orphanage.
In Korea, adoption is considered a stigma, a national embarrassment best kept hidden and swept under the rug. Up until a few years ago, it remained one of Asia’s biggest exporters of children.
The masterful use of bunraku puppets, five live actors, stylized movement, projections on a screen, and a smart cocktail of Asian and North American music blend together making this 65-minute show an indelible experience.
David is personified at three different stages: as a baby, a teen and an adult. Through flashbacks tied together in short vignettes, David’s moving story slowly unfolds.
Sangja will make you laugh and frustrate you that a young boy’s choices were stripped from him. But it is a hopeful play that does its best work educating viewers while weaving a delightful, complex yet easy-to-understand story.