There’s a new kid-friendly theater option that parents will love, too. AJIJAAK ON TURTLE ISLAND, at the La Mama Experimental Theatre Club, is the newest production, or “environmental spectacle” from IBEX Puppetry. It’s a must-see and soon, because the run ends February 18th. It’s a 70-minute show with no intermission. George Gensler provides a spoiler-free review of AJIJAAK ON TURTLE ISLAND below.
AJIJAAK ON TURTLE ISLAND follows a whooping crane, Ajijaak, from hatching to adulthood and along her migration from the tar sands in Canada to Turtle Island on the Gulf Coast. She encounters challenges, friends, and foes on her journey. Cranes are an important element in many cultures and, in this production, Ajijaak’s transformation and migration are metaphors for the survival of Indigenous/Native American cultures and the need for communities to work together for the benefit of all cultures. If you’re interested in learning more about the cranes, attend the 7 p.m. performance on Friday, February 16th, when there will be a post-show Talk Back session with Richard Beilfuss, of the International Crane Foundation, after the performance.
THE SET is floor-level (not elevated) and ingeniously transformed from tar sands in Canada to woods to prairie and even to urban cityscapes through projected images, set pieces, and the evocative story-telling of the cast (human and puppet). In addition, there are flag dancers, whose moves add depth and motion to the set.
THE MUSIC is based on Indigenous/Native American rhythms and themes. The dances are traditional dances from various Indigenous/Native American communities. It is truly moving to experience the music and dancing of the show, performed by Indigenous/Native American people, sharing their passion for and continuation of the original traditions of North America. If you’re interested in learning more about the music of the show, attend the 7 p.m. performance on Saturday, February 17th, when there will be a post-show Talk Back session about music after the performance.
THE PUPPETS were created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop (yes, that Jim Henson). Each one is a marvel. There are at least four puppets to represent Ajijaak, aging from a newly-hatched chick to a full-grown whooping crane (six, if you count the two different eggs). The puppets’ technical manipulation increases with each new iteration, highlighting the skill of the puppeteer. The puppeteers are all very talented, fading back when the puppet is meant to shine and shining bright themselves, when it’s their turn in the spotlight. There are also kites soaring over and around the stage, bringing additional light, movement, and drama to the show.
THE STAND-OUTS: I don’t want to spoil anything, so I will just say that one of the best moments, for me, was at the end with the appearance of a very special puppet. The show has general seating, so you can choose where you sit. I highly recommend the front row, if you can get it. There are interactive elements to the show and children will love being a part of it. For more information about the production, check out the official show website: Ajijaak.com.
DISCLOSURE: George Gensler received two complimentary tickets to “AJIJAAK ON TURTLE ISLAND” because she worked on the back end of the show, reviewing contracts and editing content on the website. She had no input on the actual show and performance and did not attend any rehearsals. All opinions expressed are those of the author. Have you seen “AJIJAAK ON TURTLE ISLAND”? If so, leave a comment below to share your thoughts on this off-Broadway production. For more family entertainment news and reviews, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on instagram, twitter and “like” our facebook page too.