Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Childrens' Museum (4/30/09)

The Childrens' Museum (Amman, Jordan)
April 30, 2009

Thursday, April 30 was a day of outreach performances for children coming to the Children's Museum in West Amman. One of the most beautiful an impressive buildings for little people I have ever seen, it was filled with kids from wide stretches of the country. Unlike so many of our own museums, this was, less than two years old, is very much an interactive one, with seemingly everything hands on. There were two JB outreach shows, and both garnered that same level of attention as at home. Thousands of miles away kids still know the story of Mowgli, still called out the name of the bear and still wondered where the Hell Bagheera was. They picked up a little tweak in the story that suggested that the Tiger had resolved is conflict with the boy, asked great questions and, in the first of two programs, clapped throughout all of the last scene. Jason, on a stone floor, went for it, with all the diving, turns and twists he would normally reserve for a more safe floor (its his birthday today, by the way).

The museum is located in an elegant and affluent section of the city, at the far west end, across from the City Mall (in which lay the only Starbucks I managed to get my very Washington hands on -- turns out that about the first thing every American asks for upon meeting with folks from the State Department is Starbucks. We no longer seem to care abour McDonalds, but woe to anyone denying us Starbucks).

The kids were from public schools in the first show, and one little girl in particular was so animated by the story that she was just up and out of her chair the entire time, dancing the steps (particularly Alice's). Kathryn, Delph, Giselle and Liz were the perfect monkeys, and just sold their roles as the mad Bandar Log.

Christopher, the reluctant Tiger, pressed into service when Jerome bailed and forced a cascade of role changes, was a great and completely different tiger -- long and lean and perfectly in the face of the kids. Maleek as well, moving over from Tiger to Bear in these past two weeks, moved in and around the kids and their teachers, emerging suddenly from a corner and delighting the kids, scaring the heck out of the teachers, and being the perfect best buddy.

Its a remarkable reminder, again and again, that kids are kids. We had been worried in our monkey outreach part, in which kids are invited to the stage to learn a part, that we would violate some of the cultural mores of keeping boys and girls separated. We wanted to be very careful, and very respectful, of this, and had set up a plan for Jason to bring the boys on stage and work with them and for the Monkeys (an all female band) to work with the girls, but everyone flowed in together and created a crazy wonderful energy.

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