Big Words for Young Minds–Language in JUST SO STORIES

Kipling was not only a wordsmith but an artist (like his father) who created the illustrations for his "Just So Stories."

Kipling was not only a wordsmith but an artist (like his father) who created the illustrations for his “Just So Stories.”

One of the hallmarks of children’s literature before, say, the 1950s, was its refusal to “dumb down” the language or condescend to children. Rather, the books were designed to grow with the child, and to entertain the parent who was presumably reading to her: For example, take a fresh look at the original Winnie the Pooh stories, E. Nesbit’s novels, the original Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books, or novels like Gene Stratton Porter’s Laddie. Even Beatrix Potter’s tales contain words like “perambulator” and “mackintosh” and “galoshes”.

Rudyard Kipling quite obviously reveled in the sounds of words and their conjuring power. He peppered his humorous Just So Stories with words like “insatiable” and “excruciating“.  The by-colored python rock snake refers to the crocodile as, “This creature in the patent-leather ulster” and as “a man-o-war with an armor-plated upper deck”.   Here are some more terrific vocabulary words to expand your child’s brain–and yours:

  • The Kangaroo admits to having “a pride that’s inordinate“.
  • “Can you help us?” ask the animals. “Decidedly,” answers the Djinn.
  • The bi-colored python rock snake uses words like limpid and vitiate.
  • The Amazon river is described as turbid (which is, by the way, the opposite of limpid).
  • The Jaguar’s Mother uses the words alternative and delicacies.

A Brief Quiz–to be Taken AFTER you see “Just So Stories”

See if you can match up the main animal character with its country or the geographic element mentioned, AND the secondary character that appeared in its story:

1.  CAMEL                      A.  LIMPOPO RIVER                a.  DINGO

2.  RHINO                       B.  WOLGAN RIVER              b.  PARSEE

3.  KANGAROO              C.  DESERT                              c.  PYTHON

4.  ARMADILLO              D.  AMAZON RIVER                 d.  DJINN

5.  ELEPHANT                E.  RED SEA                             e.  JAGUAR

The Answer Key, O Best Beloved, will be revealed when you click on “Continue reading”:  Continue reading

A brief biography of Rudyard Kipling, author of JUST SO STORIES

Rudyard_Kipling_(portrait)British author Rudyard Kipling was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, on December 30, 1865, to British parents John Lockwood Kipling and Alice (née MacDonald) Kipling, who had settled there, India being a colony of Great Britain at the time. John Kipling was an artist and head of the architectural sculpture department of the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay.

As was common in that day, Kipling and his sister Alice were sent to England to be educated. They stayed with foster parents, the Holloways, from 1871 to 1877. Kipling later wrote about his mistreatment at the hands of the Holloways. His parents finally removed him and placed him in a boarding school in Devon, where he flourished, and first began to find his voice as a writer.

Academically, he was not brilliant enough to go to Oxford or Cambridge on scholarship, and his parents could not afford to send him otherwise. Continue reading

Design Elements in JUST SO STORIES

JSS show artElsie Kipling and her friends are using their imaginations to act out stories about animals in far-off lands. Not too different from how children have historically played–using furniture and blankets and other found objects to become the scenery of their world.

A good theatrical design needs to take the context of the play into account, and create a world which seems effortless and inevitable. In the case of The Just So Stories, the director first had to decide how the characters in the play would interact with the stories:  would they obviously be children pretending (and letting their child-character show through) or would they, when acting out each story, become fully invested in their animal-character?

(This is not an unusual dilemma. Any time there is a “play within a play” we need to ask these questions. An O. Henry Christmas two years ago required similar decisions to be made.) Continue reading

Working “In the Round”

Lorraine 2–A guest post by afO guest director
for The Just So Stories,  Lorraine Knox

Theatre “in the round” has been, well, around for millenia, dating all the way back to ancient Rome. Although proscenium stages (stages framed at the front by a large curtain, which can be closed) are the “norm” in contemporary theaters, many stages have been built specifically for in-the-round performances, including the nearby Wagon Wheel Playhouse in Warsaw, Indiana. Many other theaters have the ability to be configured in the round at times. The PPG ArtsLab, afO’s new home stage, is one of those theaters.

The term ‘in the round’ is a bit of a misnomer. Continue reading

Introducing JUST SO STORIES’ director…and family!

Guest director Lorraine Knox

Guest director Lorraine Knox, in a recent glamour shot which seems very apropos for this play!

Introducing…..a familiar face, in a new role!  Lorraine Knox is certainly no stranger to all for One. She first appeared as Abigail Adams in our productions of American Primitive (2004 and 2008). Our audiences have also seen her as Madeline in Women of Lockerbie, the Great-Grandmother in The Princess and the Goblin, and most recently as Mrs. Johnson in last season’s The Music Lesson.

This season I am thrilled to have Lorraine as our guest director for The Just So Stories. I knew Lorraine would bring a fresh creative vision and energy to this piece. What I did not expect was that she would bring her entire family with her!  Here is Lorraine’s own explanation of how this show has become “A Family Affair”: Continue reading

The Just So Stories

JSS show art

 

We are getting excited about our annual “for the whole family” show.  The Just So Stories is the title of a collection by Rudyard Kipling, a British writer from the Victorian era, perhaps best known as the author of The Jungle Book. The Just So Stories are all fanciful “origin” tales, such as “How the Camel Got His Hump”.  all for One’s production is an adaptation by Joseph Robinette which begins with Elsie Kipling, the author’s daughter, awaiting her parents’ return from India. She decides to act out some of the stories her father has written, with the help of her new friends. Five of Kipling’s tales will be featured in the course of the play–which also tells us a bit more about Elsie and her family.

The stories (Kipling’s original titles) being acted out are: Continue reading