Oak Forest playwright and Abby Koenig knows what it’s like to try to entertain a small child. She has twin boys. So when fellow mom and Rec Room co-founder Stephanie Wittels Wachs approached her about writing a sketch performance piece for kids to put on at her performance space, Koenig was game.
“Many a Saturday we’ve called each other and said ‘what are you doing with your kids today?’” said Koenig of Wachs.
With two adult plays under her belt – Your Family Sucks and Spaghetti Codes, both produced at Horse Head Theatre – Koenig, who is also a professor of communication studies at University of Houston-Downtown, turned her attention to a different audience.
The result is Garbage Island, a live, interactive sketch performance for children ages 2-6, premiering this Saturday, February 18, at 10:30 a.m. and running Saturdays through March 11. Tickets are $10 per child. Parents and children under 2 are free. Coffee and mimosa are available.
“I hope they get the jokes,” said Koenig, who said she was partly inspired by the old Muppet Show.
Garbage Island takes place in a literal garbage dump where off-the-wall characters come to life to solve mysteries using creative and critical thinking skills. There is an eco-friendly, recycling message in the production which is conveyed in an age-appropriate way.
“We’re inviting kids to bring their old toys and one will be chosen each show to toss the toy on stage,” said Koenig. “The actors will improvise with them.”
With a small budget, Houston Grand Opera costumer Clair Hummel made the costumes from found materials to further highlight the theme of sustainability. Local singer-songwriter, Greg Cote, hosts the show as Garbage Man Joe, performing original music with his guitar. Houston actors and Rec Room regulars Dano Colon, Tasha Gorel, and Orlanders Jones, perform as a rotation of multiple characters. There is a pre-taped segment with famed puppeteer Joel Orr of Bobbindoctrin Puppet Theatre where a puppet tries to dispose of a plastic bottle the right way in Hermann Park.
Each performance will culminate in a big kid dance party, with recycled instruments and Garbage Man Joe and the cast.
There are a lot of firsts with the play. It’s the first play for children that Koenig has written and the first thing for kids that the Rec Room, open for a year across the street from Minute Maid Park, has produced.
The hope is that the show will go on all year around with breaks in between.
“We’d start up again in the summer with a different script,” said Koenig.
Koenig took her kids to a dress rehearsal and said that they keep telling the knock-knock jokes they heard.
“I hope parents like it too,” she said. “I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve written.”
The Rec Room is located at 100 Jackson St. Metered Street parking is available. For more information see http://www.recroomhtx.com/new-events.