“Welcome to our island,” said actor Liz Hartford. “No, I don’t mean Martha’s Vineyard – I mean the Island of Prospero’s Magic Book.”
Actors cart-wheeled out of the woods to welcome families to The Fabulists’ first show of 2010 on Saturday, July 11, at the Tisbury Amphitheater.
The word “fabulist” originally means “one who tells fables.” The Fabulists, an improvisation/sketch comedy troop, have performed adaptations of international fables and classic literature for children on Martha’s Vineyard since the early 1990s. The troop rehearses the upcoming show twice the week before performing. Each show is performed two weekends in a row with the introduction of a new show every other weekend.
“We use both improv and written scripts, as well as just on-the-spot silliness in our shows,” said Fabulist director Paul Padua, who collaborated with artistic director MJ Bruder Munafo to form the troop. “It’s really about the kids, but we try to entertain the adults too.”
Despite the chance of rain on July 11, The Fabulists performed “Prospero’s Magic Book,” their original adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” at the outdoor theater. The play told the story of a fish monster who wanted to steal Prospero’s magic book and become master of the island. The cast consisted Mr. Padua as fish monster Caliban, Chris Kann as master Prospero, Chelsea McCarthy as Prospero’s daughter Miranda, Maggie Padua as the duchess Antonia, Jill Macy as Queen Sebastina, Mac Young as prince Ferdinand, Liz Hartford as Ariel, and any young audience member who wished to join the actors in the center of the amphitheater.
“We need involvement from the kids,” said Mr. Padua, “so we create scenes to break the fourth wall between the audience and the cast.”
“Are there any monsters out there?” asked Mr. Padua as Caliban to the audience, inviting the children to the stage for a lesson on how to be a monster and scare not only Prospero, but their parents too. The play was focused on audience volunteers as waves to crash Queen Alonsa’s ship onto Prospero’s island and suggestions on how to make Miranda fall in love with Prince Ferdinand.
“I get really nervous when I talk to girls,” said Mr. Young as Ferdinand to the audience. “What should I do?”
“Ask her how she’s feeling. Let her use your internet,” said the audience.
“The kids’ reactions are unpredictable,” said Mr. Young. “They’ll love something, they’ll hate something, and they’ll join us once they realize that it’s okay to chime in.”
“I had a lot of fun,” said Mark Clements, age 5. “I really liked being a monster.”
At the end of each show the cast members, who have worked together for the last three years, line up along the pathway to bid their audience farewell. “Some kids come back each year,” said Mr. Padua. “Some of those kids have grown up to become Fabulists.”
The Fabulists perform Saturdays at 10 am though July and August. Tickets are sold at the amphitheater on the day of each performance, and cost $5 for children age two and over and $10 for adults. Performances are canceled if it is raining at show time. For a full schedule, visit vineyardplayhouse.org.
Naomi Pallas of Vineyard Haven, a junior at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, is a summer intern at The Times.