We had performed several times over the years at various events at Sunnybrook hospital, and so we had already made the acquaintance of many doctors, HR personnel and arts therapists. They knew we were adaptable performers as we had been contracted to do everything from entertain donors on a Yatch at a dinner party, to storytelling workshops with WWII veterans on the veterans unit at Sunnybrook. So when Vic Bansal, a doctor in the cardiology department contacted us with the request that we do a “child-friendly” show for cardiologists and their families at their annual hospital BBQ, he was pretty sure we would be up to the task. Parents and kids alike were getting tired of the same magician year after year and were ready for something fun-filled and unique that would impress all in attendance.
WHAT WE DID TO PREPARE:
We brought together the actors in our company who have had the most experience working in theatre, and television for young audiences. Many of us have been part of shows that have toured throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. Some shows were purely entertaining while others' primary purpose was curriculum-centered and educational. We have a great respect for young people and how they see the world, and we wanted to ensure that our show format for young audiences reflected that. We put our heads together and came up with a concept, loosely based on a successful show in France created by Extant Jester co- creative director Thomas Gallezot, and came up with our format: The Incredible Story of Whatever You Want. It is essentially an impov show for kids and families. There is a narrator who holds the story together and 2 actors who play all of the characters. But the vast majority of the plot and character details are based on suggestions made by young audience members as the story unfolds...
HOW THE SHOW WORKS:
The narrator begins by asking audience members for input regarding their favorite story genres (some of the most popular responses include: mystery, action, fairytale, spy, historical adventure, or a realistic true-to-today story). Once the young audience members have decided on a genre, the narrator requests a few more specific details. For example, she may ask for an animal and an emotion, an environment and an object, or a person and a quirk etc… Hence the story may be called “The Frightened Dragon,” or “The Case of the Stolen Painting in the Jungle” or “The Doctor who hiccupped for 89 years.” Throughout the story, the Narrator constantly requests details, character elements and twists and turns from audience members; they may be asked to describe things to be seen in a Jungle setting for example- and as they do, the actors instantly transform right before their eyes! With a few simple coloured fabrics and a LOT of creative imagination, trees, rivers, mud holes, swap monsters, old farmers, and even 12-legged bugs appear!
Young audience members always play a large part in key story decisions, The narrator will set up a situation:
“… the old woman suddenly heard a knock at the door- she opened it- who did she see standing there?”
And the chosen audience response will affect the overall outcome instantly:
“ An evil cat!”
“ A blind boy! “
“The ghost of the library!”
“ A bank robber!”
The narrator selects whatever she deems to be the most unique, appropriate or hilarious suggestion – and the story - becoming more and more intricate, original, humourous and profound, continues to unfold.
ON THE PERFORMANCE DAY:
There were about 20 children ranging in age from 4-13 and approximately 35 adults in the audience. The show went off without a hitch! We had tons of fun and the kids came up with the most unique and hilarious suggestions. Our story followed the adventure of a sad dog named “Jimmy” whose search for a better name took him and his friend to far away lands. Jimmy and his friend Susan had to eat their way out of a strawberry, to swim through waterfalls to find the illusive name changer, and learned more than a few hilarious lessons along the way. The kids were thrilled with the performance and the adults were laughing along the entire way through too- amazed at how skilled we were at accepting, honouring and incorporating the kids’ suggestions.
Following this successful performance we were inundated with requests to perform at private birthday parties. We have since been doing 6-10 shows a week at kids birthday parties, family-centered corporate events and touring to schools and local theatres in the GTA. Because our troupe is fully bilingual, this show s available in both English and French. For more details about this show and other work that the Extant Jesters do with and for kids, please visit our Young Jesters website at www.youngjesters.com
Our stories are always interactive, always fun and easily adapted to the ages, outlooks and imaginations of our audience members. We provide young people with a unique theatrical experience, born of a spontaneous encounter between the imaginations of children and improvisers alike, played out instantly by our professional and talented actors who utilize physical techniques of Jacques Le Coq, Dario Fo, Marcel Marceau, Philippe Gaulier, Augusto Boal and others. There is an incomparable, pleasurable magic innate in each story that is unique to improvisation.
The Incredible Story of Whatever You Want is a quality, interactive theatrical experience that will thrill and satisfy all in attendance. In addition to our performance, we also offer follow-up question and answer periods, creative activities and specialized improv workshops for audience members. We can custom design any show and workshop to fulfill the needs and desires of any group of young people, their parents and/or educators .