This weekend, we headed downtown to see Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly at Oregon Children’s Theatre. Always one for a theme, I decided to take my own spider- a.k.a Nugget in a Spider-Man sweatshirt. Chicken and Nugget had read some, but not all, of the books in the series. While they are not our go-tos, both kids have positive associations with the stories.
This visit we happened to get to do one of our favorite theater things- a backstage tour! One of the many perks of being a subscriber at Oregon Children’s Theatre is the opportunity to go on a backstage tour led by Ross McKeen, the managing director of the theater. You meet in the lobby area an hour before the performance, and are taken through the stage door just like the actors. Mr. McKeen explains the different areas such as the green room, dressing room, the expectations for the actors, etc. Of course the coolest part is getting to walk onto the stage and see the set and props up close. Interesting facts or stories are told about different props and the development of the set. You get to see the complicated rope pull area that moves curtains and stage elements, as well as see how the lights are set up. You even get to take pictures on stage. Nugget, of course, asked all sorts of random questions. Our leader kindly took him seriously and answered each and every one. The tour itself usually only takes 20 to 30 minutes, plenty of time for a bathroom break and snack before the show officially begins. We have had fun trying to find a special prop or element we saw on stage and seeing if we can remember to identify it during the play. This time, Nugget spotted a wig with soda cans used as rollers. He was so excited when he saw it worn on stage!
The play itself is very cute. It is a musical that combines different elements from various stories in the series. The play’s storyline follows Worm, Spider, Fly, their friends Ant and Butterfly, as well as the teacher, Mrs. McBee, over the course of a school year. Our insect friends face typical developmental challenges in a fun and accessible way- what do I want to be when I grow up? Where do I fit in my family? How am I the same as and different from my friends? The music had the kids moving in their seats, and lots of giggles were heard throughout the theater.
The set is fun, comprised of oversized items that might be attractive to bugs- a pizza box, coffee cup complete with a lipstick smudge, soup can, etc. Simple elements help creatively move us from the bugs’ outdoor world, to the rooms as they write in their diaries, and to their classroom for group discussions and presentations.
We have seen a couple of the actors in other plays, and this production very well casted really allowed them each to shine. The teens in Oregon Children’s Theatre plays are so talented and professional, and it is fun to watch them grow on stage.
After the show we took advantage of the meet-and-greet with the cast. This cast is made up of primarily middle school and and high school students, and they were all so sweet with the children coming for autographs.
As with most OCT plays, the run time is about an hour. I would say the target audience is probably pre-school through second grade or so. It’s an enjoyable show, even more so if you are familiar with the books.
What it is: a familiar story to younger children, an appropriate length for younger audiences, a fun musical, family friendly, a positive message, creative staging
What it’s not: the best fit for upper elementary students
Tickets to the show can be found here: https://www.octc.org/#index