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Thursday, May 30, 2013 - Committed to Children's Theatre: Anansi

Every year the Oakland University theatre program finishes its season with a children's production. Several performances are scheduled in Varner Hall, but the show also goes on the road. The production is designed to facilitate touring. Kerro Knox 3, director of the theatre program says, "It's important for our students to experience this very different kind of audience and for us to give children a real theatrical experience. I think we have a responsibility to develop the audience of the future and perhaps even to inspire a future performer."

This year's show was Anansi, an original production based on West African stories and incorporating music and dance from that region. Anansi was directed by Professor Knox and Mark Stone, our World Music program coordinator. The student cast worked with the faculty to develop the show. Kerro says, "There was no dramatic work called Anansi. The production was created from a narrative text and it's important for our students to know that you can make a play out of anything."

In addition to the performances at Varner, which were seen both by students from local schools and by families, Anansi toured off-campus to nine schools, the furthest away being Three Fires Elementary in Howell. The show also gave two performances as a Mother's Day weekend preview at the Detroit Zoo,which were seen by many families. Anansi presented a whole series of different stories, which made it easy for visitors at the zoo to see a part of the production and still see a complete narrative section.

Tour manager Kendra Barnett reports, "The response to the show has been enthusiastic and energetic. This production had great draw because of its unique origins and execution." Kerro Knox says,"The multicultural background of Anansi made it a perfect choice to tour the schools in our area.

Next year's children's production will be the musical Freckleface Strawberry, which is based on a series of books by Julianne Moore. You can watch a video about the original New York production here. Anyone interested in more details about Freckleface Strawberry can email It's not too early to reserve your school's date for May or June 2014! 

Artwork by Jeremy Barnett

Anansi photos by Rick Smith