Mommy University is so excited to partner again this season with The Growing Stage: The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey. They offer a family-friendly environment perfect for a child’s first theatre experience as well as for children with some sensory needs. In exchange for tickets to each performance, we are so happy to be able to bring you all the entertainment this season as well as our honest review of each show.
The Growing Stage The Children’s Theatre of New Jersey is a big believer in furthering the arts and offering artists the chance to learn and grow in the field. As part of their mission, each year, they host the New Play Reading Festival where playwrights from all over submit their unpublished work for review. Four finalists are chosen by a panel of artists and playwrights, and their plays are presented in 2 stage readings by professional artists. After each reading, everyone participates in discussions about the work. Suggestions are made and advice is taken. It is an amazing learning experience for all involved.
At the end of the stage presentations, one play is chosen as the winner and turned into a full production. Since working with The Growing Stage, I have had the honor of seeing the 2014 winner And Then Came Tango and 2015 winner A Book of D. Both were absolutely amazing productions that pulled at our heartstrings and inspired us to be better people.
This year the winner of this prestigious honor was The Box of Stories written by J.S. Puller. Jessica is a graduate from Northwestern with a degree in Theatre and Elementary Education. She has always loved of Greek Mythology which is woven into many of her pieces. In fact, history and mythology is a prime focus of The Box of Stories. Jessica has always been intrigued and inspired by stories and believes this play with inspire others as well.
The Box of Stories is a heartwarming story about 2 sisters who, despite their age difference, bond over storytelling. Jenna is the older sister who is home from college for the weekend while Imra is her younger sister who tries to hide her sadness that her sister has moved away. Jenna reminds Imra of their closeness by telling her a bedtime story like she did before she left for school. This is where the real adventure begins!
Jenna tells a story about 3 trickster gods who take all the stories in the world and place them in a box. What do you think would happen to the world if there were no more stories? How would people learn about the past? How would anyone learn life lessons? Would people know about other cultures, religions or ways of life? In short, the world would fall apart!
This is when an unlikely hero arises. As Jenna continues to narrate the story, Imra becomes the main character in the story as she finds the box of stories in the meadow. As Imra learns about the lessons of the world from the box, she shares her knowledge with all those she encounters. She helps others during times of struggle and fear and is later chosen to be their leader.
The crazy gods become very upset with the young girl for finding the box and helping others around the world. They throw many obstacles her way, and watching her deal with each one is inspiring to her people and the audience members. Don’t worry, I won’t spoil the ending. You just have to see the show to see what happens!
The Box of Stories is presented with a small cast of only 5 actors/actresses but each character is brought to life in a big way. Cara Ganski was the perfect choice to play Jenna. She has always been one of my favorite members of the Actors’ Equity Association at The Growing Stage due to her sweet demeanor and realistic portrayal of characters. Marcelo Leal and Davis Cameron Lemley brought humor to the parts of Loki and Coyote while Ashley Leone brought likable sneakiness to the character of Anansi. Caitlin Member was wonderful as Imra as she was vulnerable yet strong and courageous at the same time.
The Box of Stories is an inspiring show that uses stories to bring audience members on a journey around the world. Through folklore and myths, we learn about different cultures and beliefs that have helped create the world we live in. We learn how important stories are for us to learn from our past mistakes. We discover how cultures can be so different yet so similar at the same time. No matter where you are from, what religion you believe in or what culture you follow, we all believe in the same things. We all want love, acceptance and stories to show us the way!
The Box of Stories is playing for only 2 weekends so don’t miss this amazing experience. To learn more or to purchase tickets, please visit The Growing Stage website.