Knowing that children mimic what they see, we had reservations about mounting a Punch and Judy show since the characters engage in clubbing one another. It was originally played to adults who found this fierce slapstick very funny.
In trying to find different sources of humor for kids, we turned to fairytales. But Rumpelstiltskin and Jack and the Beanstalk aren’t comedies; Rumpelstiltskin is punished for forcing Queen Aurelia into an untenable situation, and Jack, in our version, rescues his uncle from insatiable materialism.
How about an 18th century farce? There are confusing situations, interesting language and amusing asides to the audience.
Captain Crook and the Missing Treasure fills the bill for this sort of humor; our “Pirates!” video is a testimony to it. One problem, only the grownups are laughing.
So what makes children laugh? Trips to Family Stages and Storybook Musical Theater gave us the answer. It turned out to be the unintentional mishap.
This gentler, kinder type of slapstick is the first act of Mr. Meeney and the Hot Air Balloon. Mr. Meeney gets in the crossfire of Mike and Mary’s ball toss.
Next, he’s squirted with a hose. The third and funniest turned out to be Mary’s repeated and accidental knocking Meeney with a large tree limb. The tree limb idea comes from an experience in a fabric store where a patron was in line holding a long bolt of upholstery fabric.
As she turned to look out the storefront window, the bolt end knocked over a display. She then turned to see what caused the noise and in doing so, knocked over another. The funny part was that everybody knew what had happened except the patron.
I was that patron. Mission accomplished.
Robin and Susan Tafel, 215-441-4154, https://www.youtube.com/user/PennsWoodsPuppets.
PHOTO CAP: Making children laugh