"Ghost Fish" brings magical tale to local trails
Last updated 9/21/2022 at 9:36am
Everybody's heard a fish story-the one that got away. But this fall, Theatre Across Borders makes a whale of a tale out of one boy's fishing trip.
"Ghost Fish: Legend of the Lake" features puppets, close-up magic, swashbuckling sword fights, mermaids, monsters, music and more in an unforgettable adventure. Staged on the trails at Fountain Creek and Bear Creek Nature Centers, children ages 3 and up and their families will walk from scene to scene as the story unfolds.
"It's the perfect family hike," said director Melissa O'Rear. "Fountain Creek's trail is friendly for strollers and wheelchairs, while Bear Creek suits more adventurous kids. Both trails are less than a mile long, with unique stopping points that make beautiful backdrops."
Theatre Across Borders partnered with Katy Williams, a True West award-winning designer, to construct original shadow puppets for the show, along with a 5-foot, colorful "ghost fish" that she operates herself. The show also features a wise-cracking parrot and a sea monster.
"Often theatres will add puppets just for fun," Williams said. "But for a show like this, you need puppets to capture the full scope of the story. It's completely original and adorable."
Founded in 2020, Theatre Across Borders creates theater in unexpected places throughout the Pikes Peak region in order to connect, inspire and grow together. Their 2020 show, "Magic of the Marsh," was the first play staged in El Paso County after the COVID-19 lockdowns. This spring, Theatre Across Borders toured "Push, Pull, Split, Spin," a play co-written by District 11 fifth-graders, to 17 elementary schools across Colorado Springs.
The previous theatre hike at Fountain Creek Nature Center, "Magic of the Marsh," sold out all 36 shows in summer 2020.
O'Rear said the cast experienced some interesting moments on the trail during the group's performances in 2020.
"You never know when nature is going to decide to join the scene!" she said. "During one of the scenes in Magic of the Marsh, our last theatre hike at Fountain Creek, a bull snake decided to join the audience! The puppeteer used her improvisational skills to move the audience to a different part of the trail and the scene continued. A couple times, the performers were upstaged by a deer or a heron. But again, our performers are great with improvising the way through and making nature a part of the scene. When we did our theatre hike at Bear Creek Nature Center, we actually had a bear in one of the scenes! Two of our crew members gently shooed the bear out of the trail that the audience was using. It took them about an hour to get the bear completely off the trail."
The cast members all have access to "performer kits" that include bug spray, sunscreen, water, snacks and now a bear bell and spray.
"With 12 shows a day, we want everyone to feel taken care of and comfortable out in the elements," O'Rear said.
This year's play is about a legend of a fish that makes wishes come true. To find it, you must join the circus, swim with a mermaid and escape a sea monster. "Ghost Fish" blends puppetry, dance and silly surprises for kids ages 3 and up. The performance is somewhat interactive, with guest encouraged to "make a wish" and "find the fish."
Last month, the group solicited video auditions from the community to fill a variety of roles, including actors, puppeteers, dancers and singers.
"The actors have come from up and down the Front Range, from Pueblo to Denver," O'Rear said. "But mostly they are from Colorado Springs. There is a puppeteer and creature maker from Denver and one actress from Pueblo. We always love having a few kids in our productions. Since the show is for children, it's important to us to have some relatable characters, especially because you see the performers up close and personal. We have two boys who are sharing the young pirate role of Derek, and two girls sharing the role of Amanda, who is Derek's daughter later on in the story. All the kids' ages range from 9-11. We have cast actors ranging from 9 to 70 years old. They are a diverse group of performers too, from singers and musicians to stilt walkers and magicians to puppeteers. It's going to be a great show!"
Shows will be staged at the nature centers morning-to-afternoon Saturdays, Oct. 8, 15 and 22.
"The Nature Centers are always thinking of ways to engage visitors to connect them with nature, and 'Ghost Fish: The Legend of the Lake' is a unique way to immerse people in our beautiful park with a magical nature story," said Fountain Creek Nature Center Supervisor Jessica Miller. "Plays are fun, but imagine walking through the real scene as the characters come alive around you along the hike."
Theatre Across Borders comes up with everything in the show - all the characters, the story, and the unique props and costumes. The Nature Centers help with site organization and registration.
"TAB presented their 'Magic of the Marsh' theater hike along the Nature Trail to get the show out of a crowded indoor space, and we eagerly helped them organize it along our trails to offer attendees a fun way to enjoy the outdoors," Miller explained. "That production was too successful to forget about – I'm so happy this style of theater and connecting with nature is back again for another great story!"
The show runs about 1 hour from start to finish. The audience will see seven scenes along the trail starting with a shadow puppetry scene inside the nature centers.
"It's perfect for the whole family," O'Rear said. "Toddlers will love the active and silly scenes. Older kids will enjoy the magic and the journey to find the fish. Adults will be moved by the heartwarming story and will be able to talk to their kids about lessons learned."
For showtimes and tickets, visit http://www.theatreacrossborders.com/ghost-fish