An Interview with YPT Artistic Director Allen MacInnis and Associate Artistic Director & Dramaturg, Stephen Colella on Creating Munschtime!
Why did you choose this project?
Allen: I’ve been a fan of Munsch’s work for a long time and I think that his stories make really engaging adaptations for the stage – quite inventive and playful. I love the story Love You Forever, although I recognize that it’s more of a story for adults than kids because the profound meaning of it is really absorbed by the adults.
How did you choose the five stories included in this production?
Allen: Stephen and I looked at ones that were kind of theatrical and I pushed him on at least one of my favourites, I’m sure – Pigs.
Stephen: Pigs, yes! You did actually. I think we were looking for fun, quite honestly. That’s one of the great things about Munsch’s work – it manages to be fun while having a message that you’re not necessarily noticing until it is done. It’s not a heavy, didactic message. It’s something that is laced so cleverly within the fun.
Allen: The story – A Promise is a Promise – is the one that probably links most closely to the 2016/17 season theme of “no one is alone,” because Allushua has to rely on other people to be saved from the mistake she makes.
Allen, you have talked about how Love You Forever is maybe more of an adult story and Stephen, you’re saying that they are fun and yet you feel something deeper with them. Is that why you think they resonate so strongly with kids?
Allen: I think they resonate with kids because there is something authentic about the way kids behave in the stories that Munsch captures, because he has a great respect and love of kids and likes their unique qualities. And the more unique he is about any particular character the more kids go, “I’m like that,” or “I know somebody like that,” and plus he often picks up on – especially in his earlier stories – common points of conflict with parents, but he can make them fun or even make fun of them.
Stephen: And I think he continuously interacts with young people through his readings and continues to draw from his experience of working with them. I think there are notes in the back of some of his books – Too Much Stuff or another one – about meeting kids who had similar stories or who wanted stories told about them. He incorporates not only that subject matter, but the energy of the young people as well.
Allen: There might have been some of his earlier stories that reflected the time period they were written in and don’t have quite the same currency. Other stories, there’s something about them that are timeless.
What were the challenges that you faced trying to weave the five stories together?
Allen: Some of it is sequence. What story flows well into another? But also then, what is a good compositional balance? Is that too many funny stories? Where’s the right placement for the weightier, more serious stories? That’s the kind of thing you evaluate.
Stephen: The other thing we were looking at was how many characters were in each story, because we were working with a three-person cast. Often Munsch’s stories get populated by tons and tons of other characters. So, how do you make that work with a limited number of people? We needed to figure out who was playing what role in each story. We didn’t want one actor playing every main character in each story, but so instead ensure that every actor receives the opportunity to do something different and new for the audience.
Allen: We did impose the idea that the story was being told by two adults – maybe grandparents – and a child as opposed to three kids or three adults.
You have mentioned that Love You Forever and Pigs are two of your favourites. What are some of your other favourite Munsch books?
Allen: Murmel, Murmel, Murmel. I love it. So much.
Stephen: Me too.
Allen: That line just makes me laugh and touches my heart: “I already have 17 trucks! What I need is a baby!” Love it.
To see the Munschtime! Study Guide, click here.