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Talespinner Children's Theatre: Jan and the Trickster, A Polish Tale of Magic

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On Wednesday evening, October 26th, we decided to attend a performance of a play presented by Talespinner Children's Theatre titled Jan and the Trickster (A Polish Tale of Magic) at the Parma Branch of the Cuyahoga Public Library.

Not wishing to spoil too much of the play, we will simply reprint the description of the plot from Talespinner’s website: “Jan yearns for independence from their parents - the overprotective King and Queen, but gets more than they bargain for from Kostiei, the trickster king of the enchanted forest. Jan teams up with a mysteriously magical new friend to outsmart Kostiei. They work together to perform feats of magic and solve riddles to try and best the old trickster, but when their friendship is put to the test, can Jan learn the true meaning of friendship in time to save them all?”

We thoroughly enjoyed the play which we interpreted as a parable regarding how the power of friendship and commitment can overcome evil. It was the sort of piece that was aimed at children but that parents could also enjoy.

After the play concluded, all attendees were invited to come forward and meet the performers, inspect the props, and ask any questions we wanted.  

We learned that Jan and the Trickster was Talespinner's touring show for the season and has been performed three or four times a month in venues all over the Cleveland area to audiences ranging from just a few people to over a hundred.

The four gifted actors that we watched were Ms. Hannah Storch, Mr. Charles Hargrave, Mr. Davis Aguila, and Ms. Kevona Woodard. We learned that they were part of a company of eight actors total, each of them trained to perform all of the parts, which were gender-neutral. All told, casting was only a question of who was available to perform at a particular time on a particular day.

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We had never seen a Talespinner production, so, in order to know what to expect before viewing the play, we went to its website where we read that "Talespinner Children's Theatre develops and produces highly imaginative original, collaborative and interactive professional works for children that also stimulate creative growth in its artists...Talespinner Children's Theatre strives to reach across socio-economic, cultural and traditional boundaries to help awaken and bring better understanding by opening eyes, ears, hearts and imaginations in the young people (and artists) of Cleveland and its surrounds."

In this case, Jan and the Trickster was adapted from a Polish folk tale by Ms. Krysia Orlowski, a local playwright. We did some research and found a quotation by Ms. Orlowski that read in part, "as the daughter of a Polish immigrant, I grew up on Polish folk tales. An old tale, 'The Unlooked For Prince' seemed ready made for the Talespinner stage..."

Justin Faulhaber