For the first time, The Puppet Co. in Glen Echo Park is presenting a show for young children in both English and Spanish.
Called “The Carnival of the Animals,” the musical production uses more than a dozen animal puppets that will be introduced on stage in both languages.
“We have a good size Hispanic audience, and for a long time I’ve wanted to do a Spanish language or bilingual show,” says company co-founder Allan Stevens.
As luck would have it, The Puppet Co.’s house manager, Christian Beltran of Takoma Park, who came on board in April, is not only an aspiring actor, but he’s also bilingual, having grown up with parents from Guatemala and El Salvador.
The producers of the 40-minute show, which starts Friday and runs for three weekends to Oct. 7, hope it will not only entertain but also educate young audiences.
Beltran, who has distributed flyers to bilingual schools in the area, says “Carnival” will provide a chance for English-speaking children to learn some Spanish words, and immigrant Latino children still mastering English to also learn from the experience.
Producers also hope the show will serve as introduction to classical music, as it is based on the “Carnival of the Animals,” a suite written by French composer Camille Saint-SaŽns in 1886.
Saint-SaŽns organized the music into 14 sections, with sounds specifically written to evoke animals ranging from a lion and a kangaroo to a bird and a swan.
“Each animal is represented by different instruments,” says Judy Barry Brown, writer and director with guest puppeteers Bob Brown Puppets based in northern Virginia.
There are flute sounds to suggest a bird, for example, and a glockenspiel (similar to a xylophone) is used to simulate the sound of water, she says.
Judy Barry Brown wrote the puppet part of the “Carnival of the Animals” show 20 years ago as a way to complement orchestral performances “Carnival of the Animals.”
“Kids can’t sit through a concert unless there’s a visual element,” says Brown about the way the puppets simultaneously express through action what Saint-SaŽns is saying in his music.
The puppets used in the Puppet Co. production were made by Bob Brown Puppets and are manipulated in the show by company founder Bob Brown and Christian Piper, co-founder of The Puppet Co.
In Judy Barry Brown’s story, a little boy puppet sits at a piano, frustrated at having to practice his lessons.
Narrator Beltran suggests that he go to bed and listen to Saint-SaŽns’ “Carnival of the Animals” which will soon play on the radio.
As the boy falls asleep on stage, the puppet animals in his room come to life as the music unfolds.
Between sections, Beltran explains to the audience what just happened or what is coming up in both languages.
Beltran also explains some of Saint-SaŽns musical “jokes,” instances in which he pairs animals with sounds that contrast with their characteristics.
“He took the fastest music [the can-can, a French chorus-line dance], slowed it to a stupefying crawl and gave it to the turtle,” Brown says.
Stevens say The Puppet Co. is approaching its 30th anniversary next year and has already planned most of its shows.
But he says depending on the feedback from its first bilingual production, the company may schedule another in the fall of 2013.
“We’ll wait and see,” he says. “It’s attracted a lot of public attention, and if it sells well, we’d certainly consider it.”