Snow Globe Festival promises parent appeal with family entertainment

The secret to creating quality children’s entertainment might not be easy, but it is simple. Or is it the other way around?

For comedy, mom or dad falling over is the funniest thing in the world – as Robert Munsch figured out long ago. For drama, simply get rid of mom or dad. Or both. Disney kills mom all the time, from Bambi to Finding Nemo and beyond. Replacing parents with a cruel caregiver works, too.

Of course it’s not that simple – nor as mean as it sounds. Ellen Chorley, producer of the first Snow Globe Festival of Children’s Theatre that plays through Saturday at the Avenue Theatre, says that one of her intentions is never to talk down to her audience.

“You try to find a way to present conflict and problems that the audience is also feeling,” she says. “A good example of that is one of the plays we’re putting on, Miss Electricity, about a girl in 5th grade who doesn’t like being in 5th grade. She thinks she’s a boring person, so she wants to break a world record. The way she is, the way she goes about it, a lot of 10 years olds I know are like that.”

Chorley knows well the convention in children’s literature that putting parents at peril inspires instant drama, as does putting children into nasty situations or against nasty grown-ups they have to overcome. The playwright-producer is remounting her Fringe play “The Fairy Catcher’s Companion” at this festival, a Flowers in the Attic-sort of story about two sisters whose mother leaves them in the care of a stern aunt while she goes off in search of their father, who went to war and is missing in action. There’s some feeling and conflict right there. Chorley says the play is ultimately “about being sisters, about growing up.” The kids are confined to auntie’s library for days on end, where they discover the titular tome inside of which is a spell for summoning a fairy. Chorley gets to play both the aunt and the mischievous fairy, which, as you can imagine, involves a lot of quick costume changes. Chorley is also the costume designer for Snow Globe, which features three full-length productions – rounded out by the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – along with the Holiday Halftime Show, which runs between change-overs.

While casting actors “willing to fling themselves all over the stage and wear costumes that will make them look like idiots” – taking the Munsch approach – Chorley says she doesn’t want to talk down to the grown-ups, either.

“It has to appeal to kids, but is also has to appeal to parents, too, because parents are ultimately the ones buying it,” she says. “So the intention I’ve been learning is that when you’re presenting quality children’s entertainment , it has to appeal to every age group. There has to be something in there that makes the parents want to buy the tickets and sit in the audience with their kids. You’re not creating children’s entertainment, you’re creating family entertainment.”

The Fairy Catcher’s Companion sounds like it fits the bill. It might even make a good Disney animated feature. Chorley says she’s at least willing to entertain the suggestion that it be expanded into novel – when she finds the time.

The Snow Globe Festival runs right through Christmas Eve. Click here for tickets and times.