The classic fairytale about a puppet that wants to become a real boy takes a new approach. “Pinocchio” is a family farce by Greg Banks based on 1880’s story by Carlo Collodi. What makes Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s production different from what audiences may be used to from the classic film is its presentation.
Five painters, played by the cast, enter a seemingly empty stage to work - only to learn an audience is there waiting to see the play “Pinocchio.” In that moment, the audience becomes part of the show and a relationship is formed between them and the actors. The interactive and atmospheric play engages families while the painters build the world of the story around them with found objects.
Surrounding the painters is an exposed theatre space filled with scaffolding, ladders, and stairs that shift around to create the world of the story. “We wanted to create the feeling of an abandoned theatre that is under restoration by these painters,” says Scenic Designer Anita J. Tripathi. “The painters needed a world to play with–things that they would be able to use in storytelling. We included the ladders and scaffold as their tools for restoring the theatre, and the other elements are what might have been left over from previous productions.” Her design has transformed the McColl Theatre, a modern, state-of-the-art space, into a Vaudeville-style theatre with exposed brick, wood, and rope. “We wanted everything to feel kind of vintage or at least not contemporary–this gives a lot of character to the space and resonates with the idea of a wooden puppet coming to life.”
The designers of the play worked together to make elements of the show cohesive. Costume Designer Kahei Shum McRae echos Tripathi, “The actors are playing painters who are ‘improvising’ and telling the story of Pinocchio’s adventures. So instead of just designing Pinocchio’s world, we are thinking about everyday items that can be transformed into pieces that represent other characters in the fairytale that we are all so familiar with” like mopheads as wigs or paintbrushes for Donkeys’ ears when Lampwick and Pinocchio find themselves in trouble.
Director Steven Levine doesn’t want to focus on morality tales based on Collodi’s writing or the Disney cartoon. “I’m far more interested in stories that empower children,” he says. “Pinocchio wants to become a ‘real boy.’ What does that mean? A puppet, by definition, is manipulated by someone else. So being ‘real’ is about self-actualization. It’s about agency. Pinocchio’s journey to ‘real’ is a journey to becoming his own person, standing on his own two feet and making his own choices.” He continues, “The temptations Pinocchio falls prey to are no different than those any kid faces. Honestly, if you had the choice between going to school or attending a puppet show, which would you choose? Pinocchio is navigating the same choices, and testing the same boundaries that every kid does.”
For more information regarding the “Pinocchio” and Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s 2023-24 season, please visit ctcharlotte.org.
Children's Theatre of Charlotte is a nationally-recognized theatre company in Charlotte, North Carolina, founded in 1948. They produce professional theatre experiences for children and families through Mainstage productions, educational programs, and outreach initiatives, inspiring generations to explore the wonder of their world. While reaching more than 250,000 children, families, and educators annually with their programming, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte provides a space that cultivates creativity and gives children a sense of belonging. The Theatre takes pride in leading the storytellers of tomorrow, asking children to think and dream big and stay true to themselves. This philosophy, coupled with viewing the world through the lens of kindness, led the company to form the initiative, The Kindness Project. To learn more about the Theatre and its programs, visit ctcharlotte.org or call 704-973-2828.