If your little one is feeling cooped up this holiday, I encourage you to take them for a Zoom visit with Xavi. She’s a creative young spirit and the central character of Journey Around My Bedroom, a puppet show presented by New Ohio Theatre for Young Minds. Like many children who have been isolated by the pandemic, Xavi is bouncing off the walls with boredom. Instead of being stuck at home, she wants to use her homemade wings and fly to the moon. With encouragement from her mother and an explorer who pays a visit all the way from 18th century France, Xavi learns to use her imagination to expand her space and take a trip within the safety of home.
The enchanting production is specifically designed to work over Zoom and can bring family members from different locations together for a shared experience. At intervals, audience members are given the opportunity to turn on their cameras and microphones and participate in Xavi’s travels. Willing volunteers help her find the right tools in her toy chest and sing a song of encouragement to help her overcome her fears. Post-show, they can ask the performers questions and take a look behind the scenes. The at-home packet in the show program includes a printable template to make a self-styled puppet and map in order for kids to continue the story in their own way.
Dianne Nora developed the plot line from the writings of Xavier de Maistre, produced when he was under house arrest. From the seeds of his unusual books, Nora has grown a charming story that easily incorporates lessons about bravery and appreciation and contains just enough maturity to keep supervising adults engaged. De Maistre literally drops into Xavi’s life when his balloon makes an unexpected landing in her bedroom, connecting the two adventurers.
The up-cycled cardboard puppets, meticulously designed by Myra Reavis with Ana M. Aburto, are similar to those used in Victorian toy theatre. Held together with brads so that they bend at the joints, they are assisted in their movement by outside hands that surprisingly never distract. Even Xavi’s dog Joseph is given distinct personality. Close-ups are achieved with larger cutouts of specific body parts and props. Miniature set pieces are organized on three separate stages that visually lead from one to the other. The distanced cast members appear to interact with clever cutting between cameras as directed by Jaclyn Biskup. Original songs and music by Hyeyoung Kim add to the joyful atmosphere.
Spoken word artist Starr Kirkland is our welcoming guide, appearing both as herself and as M. de Maistre. Giving voice to Xavi is Ashley Kristeen Vega whose upbeat warmth inspired one little girl in my audience to practically bounce into the performance. Rounding out the team is multi-hyphenate Laura Kay who subdues her comic chops and grounds the storytelling as the narrator and Xavi’s mother.
This imaginative production of Journey Around My Bedroom — fitting for this peculiar year — runs an attention-holding 35 minutes. Best viewed on a laptop or desktop, it’s being offered as a live stream on weekends thru January 11. This format will best suit outgoing children who will enjoy the interaction, as well as parents with flexible schedules. After the conclusion of the initial run, a prerecorded version of the show will be available on demand until February 11. All tickets are Pay-What-You-Will (suggested price is $25 for up to two viewers) and can be purchased through Ovationtix: https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/1033538 for live performances and https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/store/34708/alldonations/35894/dept/1499 for on demand.