The Painted Garden, created by the leading Italian Children Interactive Theatre Company, T.P.O, is actually one of three shows in a series called Children’s Cheering Carpet. This show is dedicated to dance and to the poetics of gardens. Following its successful debut in Beijing in 2015 with sold-out seasons, The Painted Garden is back this year, brought to you by TONG Production.
TONG Production believes that early childhood is an important stage for kids to experience, explore and learn about the world. They encourage creative expression through music, dance, drama, and other arts. Their goal is to bring quality children’s theater performances from all over the world to the young audiences and families in China.
TPO’s Artistic Director, Davide Venturini, was kind enough to answer some questions for us, shedding light the inspiration and motivation behind this mesmerizing form of theater.
What specific steps have you taken to make the play interactive?
Our research began with a workshop in Lisbon, at the Museum for Communication in 2002. We were required to create a play to engage children with severe learning difficulties using theatrical action. We created an empty space with a dance mat and projected images and shapes (squares, circles, small holes, etc.) on the floor. We asked the children to play in groups within these forms. Observing their movements, we realized that engaging in theatrical actions by making sounds and creating interactive images could develop strong emotional involvement as well. We also found that children tend to love gardens therefore making for a great theme to bring art and nature together.
Do you think interactive plays make young kids fall in love with theater or spark their imagination?
Children really like touching the performance space and rolling barefoot on stage. They especially like it when the images and sounds react to their touch. The hidden sensors that make the pictures come alive for the children also spark their imaginations. They develop a direct sensory relationship with shapes and colors while immersed in garden lights and other tactile elements.
Production has claimed the Painted Garden as being a “timelessly, universal story”. What can it offer kids in Beijing in this day and age?
The Painted Garden is a garden created by a painter! It is inspired by four colors: yellow, blue, green, red, which represent earth, water, leaves and love. They are simple and universal themes which children around the world can identify with and relate to.
What are you and your group hoping to achieve with this series of plays, in the long run?
For Chinese children it is important to participate in groups, to engage in dance based actions, creative play or simple exploration of space. We hope to channel their curiosity, develop a stronger desire to explore new possibilities, and expose them to new digital technologies.
What age group of kids are you working with and why?
We work with children from 4 to 8 years, because this is the growth phase when the use of their body for movement occurs spontaneously and naturally. Within this age range their bodily movements know no boundaries and there are no stark differences between dance and play. So, their movements are fluid and effortlessly perfect, just like dancers.
The Painted Garden, Apr 29 – May 15
Ages 4-8. This interactive show uses multimedia to engage children in a theatrical dance. The stage is projected into a high-resolution and colorful palette nick named “the magic carpet”. The magic carpet has dozens of sensors underneath that allow both the performers and the audience to activate images. A parallel workshop takes place after the show. RMB 300, discounts for kids and group buy. 6.30-8pm. M Theatre, Beijing Oriental Media Center (5203 1012)
Photo Courtesy: Tong Production and Children Interactive Theatre Company, T.P.O