Theatre Orangeville launching production for babies

March 2, 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“We are really keen to produce new Canadian theatre serving a demographic that we’re not reaching,” said Sharyn Ayliffe, Programs Manager at Theatre Orangeville, and she meant it.

The demographic is babies, four to 12 months old. If you were ever under the impression that the newest member of the family, that infant in a basket, is not taking in everything around him/her and learning from it all, think again.

Imagine a room of 20-plus quiet babies, quiet because they are enthralled by the entertainment before them. So it is with the new show, One Thing Leads to Another, a show for babies, on this weekend, Sunday, March 4, at the Rehearsal Hall just a minute along County Road 3, at the west end of Orangeville.

It is a show without seat numbers and rows but with blankets and cushions on the floor and shoes at the door. Toys are placed around the space as well.

“We’ll give the floor a new coat of paint and make sure it’s all clean and ready,” Ms. Ayliffe commented.

It is a marvel of innovation created by Maja Ardal, playwright of numerous award-winning and nominated plays, including a musical, for nearly 50 years. She was also Artistic Director for Young People’s Theatre during the 1990’s. For seven seasons, she played Mrs Potts in Road to Avonlea.

This new work is quite a digression from her other writing but, then, it is a digression from theatre generally. To develop an entertainment that can interest and engage very young children from the beginning and sustain that interest for up to an hour is truly remarkable. However, Ms. Ardal seems to have perfected the recipe.

Babies and their escorts/parents/ caregivers, sit together to watch the show, which comprises a beginning with a simple, very large silky sheet which floats and billows, but with which they go on to do something else – play peek-a-boo behind it and then another activity, moving and bringing a new toy or instrument or object into view, to keep going “from one thing to another.”

After two years’ research, Ms. Ardal and her colleagues, Audrey Dwyer, Mary Francis Moore and Julia Tribe, have divined that babies have logic and the expectation of things making sense and they appear to be proven right by the reactions of the tiny persons in their audiences. The babies pay attention in a manner almost unheard of, reaching out to touch the magic.  Everything is a beautiful colour, another part of the attractiveness of the show.

From One Thing to Another premiered at Theatre for Young People in 2016. It won two Dora Mavor Moore Awards: Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance, Ensemble, early this year.

In an interview on the National, Ms. Ardal explained, “My research and experience tell me that babies are a very focussed audience … but they make it clear: ‘if your actions do not have a purpose, I am not interested’.”

She said elsewhere, “If you just repeat what you’re doing, the babies get bored and some might cry but if one thing leads to another and if it makes sense, you have their attention and they’re happy.”

The format is a wordless “collective collaboration” of the two actors creating a multi-sensory experience, lasting about 25 minutes. At the end of it, for another 25 minutes, Ms. Ardal and her fellow performers bring the children near the action pieces so that they can touch and push the objects around, see for themselves how they feel and move. It is then the time they come to the front of the performance space to play with all the things they have been watching as well as to have the chance to interact with the actors. Then, the actors have the chance to meet the babies , “to look them in the eyes,” as one of them said.

One Thing Leads to Another came to the attention of the executive of Theatre Orangeville during the annual conference of PACT (Professional Association of Canadian Theatres) when the new Toronto-based show was brought to the attention of Bernadette Hardaker, the theatre’s General Manager. Once she had learned about, she loved it.

With the show now embarking on a tour, the opportunity became available for this tour to include Theatre Orangeville on its way to Ottawa. Naturally, they jumped at the chance.

In a brief telephone conversation with Maja Ardal, she said about the upcoming initial tour and the show itself, “I’m used to touring after 49 years. We’ll bring our blankets, toys, cushions and everything else we need for the show. We greet audiences and the babies as they arrive. We are very much in charge.

“This is our first out-of-town engagement and we are really looking forward to being in Orangeville.”

The background of this ground breaking show: “I started research on the neurology of learning in babies for two years; we work-shopped the show in 2015; our first production was 2016.”

What surprised her about the reactions to One Thing Leads to Another: “I wasn’t surprised by the babies – we had babies at our workshops. What surprised me was the theatre community, the prizes the show was awarded.  There’s no actual language in the show, just body language – it’s earthy and organic. The theatre community celebrated us – they watched the babies’ reactions.”

Future plans for the show sounded remarkably familiar: “Next, there’s tours planned for the next few years. I am still doing lots of other things in theatres, [for the rest of this year].

“I am working on a sequel for children from 12 months to two and a half years old,” she promised: more theatre marvels to anticipate.

Tickets are very reasonable to buy at the Box Office 87 Broadway and the Information  Centre on Buena Vista; by telephone 519-942-3423 or on line:


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