Wednesday, January 16, 2013 at 10:30 a.m.
The company of Pinocchio.
Photo courtesy Children's Theatre Company
Over the years, British director Greg Banks has crafted a strong relationship with the Children's Theatre Company, creating innovative productions of Romeo and Juliet, Antigone, Huck Finn, and Robin Hood, among others.
His latest challenge: to bring Pinocchio back to its roots.
Banks has gone back to the original story of a wooden boy who dreams of being brought to life to reconnect audiences with the full tale. Well, with some changes. "The original story is very dark. We have steered away from that as it is not exactly appropriate for the young audiences we are aiming at," he says.
Overall, Pinocchio is "about growing up and being excited about what you find out about the world; you find out that being alive is not just you," Banks says.
Part of the challenge is exploring the story without being overtly moralizing, Banks adds.
"There is a genuine emotional journey for Pinocchio to make. It is something that we learn as we grow up -- some better than others. I like that part of the story, but it is good to come out as not moralizing," Banks says.
This is the second time around for Banks with the story. "I originally wrote the script for a very small theater in England. The script has changed a lot. It's a bigger scale. We can have a lot more fun. When Pinocchio gets lost in the whale, we have a sense of scale," Banks says.
Joining Banks in the project are actors Dean Holt, Bradley Greenwald, Maggie Chestovich, and Elise Langer, who gets to play the title character in Carlo Collodi's tale.
"I did know the kind of actors I needed. It's very physical without being overtly physical. They are exhausted by the end of the show," Banks says.
"I write to be as collaborative as possible, and to let the actors feel like they have a hand in the process," Banks says, noting that could only go so far or the company would be locked in rehearsals for months. "I like to have a collaborative process, but I like to lead it."
The four-actor company doesn't just tell the story. They engage the audience in the experience, completely dispensing with the fourth wall. That helps to bring everyone fully into the story.
"You have to use a lot of imagination to know where you are," he adds.
All of the challenges thrill the director, like how to represent the whale onstage. "It is what makes theater exciting. It's a challenge to do it without using a lot of high-tech stuff," Banks says.
"What's lovely is that CTC has good quality actors for doing works for family audiences. I've been making work for family audiences for most of my life, and it is just lovely to come here with really good resources," Banks says.
Children's Theatre Company
2400 Third Ave. S., Minneapolis
Through February 24
For tickets and information, call 612.874.0400 or visit online