When magic comes to town

Photo by Emiliano Leyva

It’s a tale with a twist! Theatre professionals Amaranta Leyva and Kim Selody are working hard to retell the most magical of all stories, fairy tales. And these stories are a little different than you’re used to.

The heart of the play is the message,” says Leyva, lead actor in Jack and the Magic Bean. It’s a different message than usual. In this re-imagined story, director Selody explores the need for sustainability rather than money.

Jack and the Magic Bean will be shown at the Presentation House Theatre from Apr. 11–28.

Taking care of the land

The big theme of the play is sustainability. Written by Linda A. Carson, this version of the fairytale stars Jackie as the working class hero, instead of Jack, played by Leyva.

“The story starts because the land that Jackie and her father live on is dead, so nothing grows,” says Leyva. “Kids are growing up with the idea that money is very easy to get and spend, so for me, when I knew the treasure for Jackie was knowledge, that was big.”

The play emphasizes the value of actions, rather than material goods, Leyva notes. When Jackie’s father needs to sell their land in order to make money for the family, Jackie decides to sell her toys to help.

This was a very important moment for Leyva when presenting the play in Mexico.

“The moment of being poor is what starts the story; it’s very moving because in Mexico we have many communities that are very poor,” she says.

What Jackie soon learns is that money doesn’t last and what she really needs is the knowledge to make her land grow again.

“In this world and in this moment where everything goes to material things, to make the treasure in this story be knowledge; that is very important,” she says.

A twist on a classic

In Jack and the Magic Bean the audience plays its part | Photo by Emiliano Leyva

The play is a result of the close working partnership between Leyva and Selody. After meeting at a festival where they presented their own plays, the two theatre professionals liked each other’s work so much that they decided to collaborate on some projects.

Leyva travelled with her team, from Mexico to Canada to train a local cast in Vancouver to perform her play, Sleeping Beauty Dreams, in English and Selody went to Mexico to put Jack and the Magic Bean together which is now coming to Vancouver.

Usually Leyva remains hidden from audiences during her plays as she is a puppeteer, but for this role she is putting her puppets away and facing audiences head on.

“I was so scared, I didn’t want to act in the beginning, the interaction with kids is more direct if you do it by acting than with puppets,” she explains.

By acting Leyva realized she was making a different connection to the audience and couldn’t treat the audience as a whole, but rather as individuals.

“As Jackie, I need to be there in the moment and be present with the kids, you can’t see kids as a whole group, every kid in the audience is different and thinks differently and you have to know what to do with each of them,” says Leyva.

Points for participation

IJack and the Magic Bean, because the audience is encouraged to participate, that connection becomes even more important.

“It’s very funny and very novel. [Selody] works with this way of theatre he calls guide and play because kids are guided and are free to play in the show,” she says.

When Leyva’s character is given a magic bean by a gardener, she needs the audience’s help to believe in magic and push the story forward. Through dancing, fighting, getting scared and coming together, the audience helps Jackie get to the land of the giant.

This emphasis on participation helps the audience understand the power to change circumstances.

“Because Jackie’s life hasn’t been easy, it’s important we get the kids to believe in magic. Moment[s] ha[ve] to be very sincere because kids need to believe in magic. They have to believe that Jackie needs [and can use] their help,” says Leyva.

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