Don’t miss Pollyanna Theatre Company’s latest, PETER AND THE PIPER! Perfect for ages 5 and older, this play runs in the Long Center’s Rollins Theatre from July 12-20. Student and Senior tickets are available.
Pollyanna Theatre Company newest play is an adaptation of the classic tale The Pied Piper. Written by Holly Hepp-Galvan, the play follows the story of Peter, the one young man in Hamlin who does not care to follow The Piper. Peter does not give in to the lure of popularity among his peers. Together with Julius, the only rat left behind by The Piper, Peter challenges The Piper to a Rap Battle that proves he is not a “lame” boy after all. Laced with a Hip Hop beat, PETER AND THE PIPER will have toes tapping and young minds thinking about what really is “lame” and “cool”.
The first known recording of such a story was found in an ancient church’s stained glass window and was believed to record an actual event. But like so much of human history, fact and fiction have melted together to form a new narrative that potentially has a deeper meaning than the historical fact alone can convey.
The original legend, The Pied Piper of Hamelin, concerns the departure of a great number of children from the town of Hamelin, Lower Saxony, Germany. The earliest written references describe a Piper, dressed in multicolored clothing, leading the children away from the town never to return. In the 16th century the story was expanded into a full narrative, in which The Piper is a rat-catcher hired by the town to lure rats away with his magic pipe. When the citizenry refuses to pay for this service, he retaliates by turning his power on their children, leading them away as he had the rats. This version of the story spread as folklore and has also appeared in the writings of the Brothers Grimm and Robert Browning.
Theories have been proposed suggesting that the Pied Piper is a symbol of the children’s death by plague or catastrophe. Other theories liken The Piper to figures like Nicholas of Cologne, who is said to have lured away a great number of children on a disastrous Children’s Crusade. The current theory, generally accepted by scholars and historians, ties the departure of Hamelin’s children to the Ostsiedlung, in which a number of Germans left their homes to colonize Eastern Europe. Regardless of the origin of the story, the tale continues to fascinate readers both young and old. Ironically, what began as a very morbid tale has evolved into a beloved children’s story. Why? And why would Pollyanna Theatre Company bring such a tale to life in 2014, hundreds of years after the original story was first written?
In order to answer those questions one has to ask what universal truth, if any, the story puts forward? What is there about this story that still speaks to our hearts and minds? Do we have a Piper among us today with the power to “take” our children? What is at stake for society if a new Piper is successful? Pollyanna’s new production seeks to answer these questions while at the same time shows through humor the absurdity of peer pressure and the extreme power that is held by the desire to fit in with the crowd. By laughing at our desire to be perceived as “cool” at all cost we can help young audiences disarm their Piper when they encounter him. Only when all of our children are strong and confident in their own abilities to be themselves will the story of The Pied Piper of Hamlin disappear from our collective memory.
But don’t worry. Although this all sounds very heady, Hepp-Galvan’s play will have children as young as 4 rolling in the aisles of the Rollins Studio Theatre as they watch the play’s characters grapple with the meaning of words. Ultimately, Pollyanna’s play is a window into a world where reality and fantasy play well together. It is a modern city with schools and a City Hall. The kids have backpacks, homework, and the usual competition for popularity. On the other hand, it’s a town with a talking rat named Julius and a very flashy rat-catchers. Don’t you want to come along for the fun?