Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling is a classic collection of stories about Mowgli, the “man cub” fostered in the jungle of India by a pack of wolves. There are five actors and four members of the production team at Mariposa that bring Greg Banks’ adaptation to life. We sat down and talked with the team about their experience with the show so far.
Why did you want to be involved in this production?
LISA LEIBERING(Costume Designer) Creating high quality, exciting theatre for young audiences is my passion, so this opportunity was a perfect fit for me.
KRISTIN PACELLI (Actor) I wanted to be a part of this production because I loved the Disney movie when I was a little girl, and now that I'm older I love the powerful messages that the story brings to the table regarding the definition of family.
SANDI OSHABEN (Actor) For me, theatre for young audiences is incredibly important because it can teach lessons that can't be taught in a traditional way, like in a classroom, and it also doesn't teach traditional lessons. Young audiences are also the most honest, too. If a kid doesn't like a show, they will flat-out say, "Hey, you're not funny!," so you truly have to commit yourself. Nothing gets by them!
SARAH HEULER (Actor) I wanted to be a part of this production for the challenges it faced. It's a small cast - I love that about working with Mariposa, but it also means that there's nowhere to hide. The Jungle Book provided an opportunity that was physically and mentally demanding, and it allowed me to really expand on my skills as an actor.
MARLENE MEIER (Actor) I was itching to be in show and I heard about the audition from a friend! Right place, right time I suppose.
JONATHAN(JC) BECKAS(Actor) Mariposa theater is a great theater for both children and performers alike. When you come in you are always greeted and treated like family creating an awesome bond with cast and crew alike. This transfers to the stage to create a performance where it's so easy and natural to make the show come alive for the families you are performing for. In the end cast has a lot of fun so then the kids have a lot of fun.
What’s challenging about bringing this script to life?
MARLENE: The activity! It wasn't only about memorizing lines for this show, but jumping off of platforms and swinging on ropes. The cast has really had to focus on our actions to really bring the audience to the jungle mindset.
LISA: Humans playing animals is always tricky. Not only does this show have that, but also humans playing many different animals with very little time between characters. Fortunately, Caren and I were on the same page about no literal animal pieces, like ears or tails. Instead we wanted to give the actors simple items that would enhance their embodiment of their animals while also being easy to get on and off during all the quick changes.
SANDI: This piece is very much an ensemble piece, so if one person drops a line or skips, we all have to recover for them, or it can definitely snowball out of control. But, that is also the beautiful part about it, when we soar, we soar together.
SARAH: This script would be difficult to bring to life without all of the physical aspects it demands. Each actor is multiple characters, and each actor has lines throughout the whole show. There's never really a time to catch your breath. But the lines are only half of the story. When I'm a wolf, I have to behave like a wolf would. I have to sniff the air, paw at my friends, pick up a
pup by the scruff of his neck. I'm a monkey, a wolf, a bear, a Father, a teacher. And each one has to be different. That is such a challenge and it's an incredible experience.
JC: Truly embodying the creatures we portray. Then switch from animal to animal can drain your energy especially some of the changes into the monkeys because you are rushing to change then quickly get into a hyper energetic character.
MAURA: There are a lot of different elements that go into it, such as physicality, sound cues, and the set in general.
What sort of person is going to love this show?
KRISTIN: I think there's something in this show for everybody. Not only is the dialogue funny at times, but there are scenes that will tug at your heartstrings, scenes that, if we've done our job properly, will have audience members leaving with the feeling of having learned something about themselves. The action never stops.
LISA: Anyone, adult or child, who loves an adventure and values true friends
MARLENE: Children and children at heart! The kids can relate to Mowgli's playful and silly nature, while the parents can level with Bagheera and Baloo's joy at seeing Mowgli grow throughout the show.
MAURA: Anyone who likes to let their imagination run wild. JC: I think all types of people will love this show. There is fast paced comedy, drama, and a bit of horror not to mention a rendition of a classic story most people know.
SARAH: I think this show has something for everyone. This is theater for young audiences - children will love watching a story they love come to life in front of them. Adults will see the artistry and hard work we put into it, and it shows in the production
How is this character like you? Different?
SARAH: Baloo is silly and funny, but he has a huge heart. I like to think I'm a little wiser than Baloo, but I am just as silly, try to be as funny, and try to be as compassionate as Baloo is for Mowgli.
SANDI: Bagheera is impatient sometimes when things aren't moving at her pace, but she also has very maternal instincts that kick in when there is real danger or emotional distress, and I feel like I definitely level with her there. She is fierce in the defense of those she loves and of what is right and just. I also play a joke-cracking vulture, and I love making people laugh with terrible puns, so that one is just a natural fit for me. For the monkey I play, well, we both enjoy shaking our butts at people! It's fun!
MARLENE: Mowgli I think is much more of a rebel than I. I was more of a ''goody goody'' with my parents, while he seems to try and push the envelope. We are similar in the way that over the years we have realized the importance of family and the lessons they teach us.
KRISTIN: The two main characters that I portray (Mother Wolf and Kaa) are completely different while still having the same underlying theme of aggression. I don't find a lot of myself in Kaa, as her aggression takes on a slightly more sinister tone. I see more of myself in Mother Wolf's aggressive protection of those that she cares about the most.
JC: Shere Khan is very demanding and puts himself on top because he thinks he belongs there. Something I have always believed that you must earn your spot on the top by the people who surround you.
What’s the biggest challenge about taking on this role?
JC: The amount of confidence and commanding of the stage Shere Khan requires. Shere Khan always knows what he wants and how he is going to get it. So, it's up to me as the actor to always have clear strong objectives in each scene with him. Shere Khan also is a tiger that has a roar track so matching that sound when I’m speaking to the audience is a challenge in itself.
MARLENE: 1. Getting over the fear of sliding down a rope. 2. Playing a little boy 3. Not eating too many cookies our director provides for us. SANDI: I think the toughest part for me is switching between multiple characters and creatures and making sure that each time I do I fully embody each of their distinct movements and way of processing the world around them. While this show is great for the imagination, we do have to give our audience a strong foundation for their imagination to build from.
KRISTIN: Making the distinctions between characters noticeable.
SARAH: The biggest challenge for me has been personifying each character I play in a different enough way that it's clear who I'm portraying. My goal is for someone in the audience to know when I have changed characters without the costumes.
Without giving anything away, what’s your favorite line of dialogue?
SANDI: "HA HA HA!"
KRISTIN: "You belong here, in our hearts."
SARAH AND MAURA: Well peel me a papaya and pick out the pips!
JC: Hush thee my Mowgli, this tiger will get thee
MARLENE: There are a series of lines where Mowgli gets very frustrated when his new monkey friends aren't being kind to him. I feel like we all can relate to a time when a group of people we thought were good to hang around turned out to be not the best.
When you have a five-minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?
JC: Cast bonding or character work with fellow cast members. I think one of the most important things is getting to know the people you are working with and how they see their character and what they see in yours. There are relationships these characters have with each other the whole cast needs to be aware of.
SARAH: I like to take a drink of tea and catch up with my fellow actors. That's one of my favorite things of this show - I love everyone in this show.
SANDI: Looking at the script or taking a moment to breath. Either one can be beneficial, depending on your headspace that day.
MARLENE AND KRISTIN: Learning my lines!!
Who’s the funniest person in the cast in real life?
MARLENE: Kristin has some stories in her back pocket that will getcha.
KRISTIN: I can't choose! Everyone in this cast has a hilarious sense of humor, and I never stop laughing when I'm with them.
SANDI: I think everyone is pretty funny, but I think Kristin has the great, subtle way of popping a joke in here and there that is killer. And Rosie, well, Rosie just goes to all the crazy, bizarre places we all go to in our heads, but she doesn't filter them.
SARAH: Kristin is hilarious!
If you could play any other character in this show, who would it be?
MAURA: Probably one of the Vultures
JC: I think Bagheera she is just a complete 180 of Shere Khan and I would love and try to portray her.
SANDI: Oh, that's tough, but I think I would love a shot at Baloo. I'm a goofy person in real life, and I think Baloo and I have that in common, that and the being hungry often and loving naps!
MARLENE: The bees. Bbbbuuuzzzzzzz
KRISTIN: Shere Khan!
SARAH: I would love to play Shere Khan, but I think JC pulls him off way better than I could.
What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage / the curtain goes up?
JC: Focus and get into a neutral space so I can slip into my character the minute I get on stage.
SARAH: I take a deep breath and bid everyone to break a leg!
MARLENE: Shake the jitters out, maybe lightly punch JC, take a deep breath, put myself in the jungle.
KRISTIN: I take three deep breaths, and say a little prayer that I don't completely blow my lines.
SANDI: I take another sip of water. This show is physically and mentally demanding-you have to stay hydrated!
Why should people come to see this show?
LISA: It is a great opportunity to have a few laughs and get an up-close look at some wonderful acting
MARLENE: This is such an energetic and fun show. Nothing brings it to life like an excited audience ready be told a great story.
MAURA: Because it’s fun and is something whole families can enjoy.
JC: It's an amazing show with an awesome cast and crew who have worked so hard to make this show come to life.
SARAH: People should come to see this show because we have worked so hard to bring quality theater that is entertaining for both adults and children. I believe we have achieved this. But people should come for themselves and see!
SANDI: Anyone who loves to use their imagination!
KRISTIN: I think there are a lot of reasons to this show! Like I said before, there's something in this show for everybody, and there are some genuinely powerful messages conveyed in the 90 minutes that we're running and climbing and rolling all over the stage. We've also worked SO hard on this show, and we're just itching to share it with others so that they can enjoy it as much as we do!
We hope you enjoyed learning a little more about our actors, designers, and technicians. This show has been a wonderful journey of discovery, challenge, and sometimes just chaos. But only the best kind of chaos made it to the stage! We hope you will join us soon!
Jungle Book runs through March 31st. Every Saturday at 10am and 1pm the jungle comes alive to tell the story of the man cub and his journey. Tickets are $12/Adults and $8/Children under 12.
MEET THE ACTORS
THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES