Cool After School: Two Bad Mice

by Vicky on December 12, 2010

This week’s Cool After School program featured The Tale of Two Bad Mice, by Beatrix Potter.

I wanted the kids to see the same story presented in three different media.  First, I showed them the book and gave them a synopsis of the story as told in the book.  I showed them the book illustrations and asked them to watch for similarities and differences in how the story was visually presented through print, puppetry, and ballet.

Then I repeated my puppet show version of the story that I had created for the Page Presents program.  My puppet show includes the dolls, Lucinda and Jane, but does not include the thefts by Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca.  Like the ballet, it includes a dance before the scene at the dining room table.  Although I used Johann Strauss’ Pizzicato Polka for the dance the last time I presented the puppet show, this time the mice danced (briefly) to the electric sounds of Mannheim Steamroller.  This incongruity with the period flavor of the rest of the production tickled the audience.

Next we watched a version from The Tales of Beatrix Potter, by England’s Royal Ballet.  Beatrix Potter’s original watercolor illustrations spring magically to life through choreography by Frederick Ashton, a musical score by John Lanchbery, and costume design by Christine Edzard with masks by Rostislav Douboujinsky—as you can see in this clip advertising a current production at London’s Royal Opera House.

The ballet version does not include the dolls, but has a hilariously extended sequence of the mice smashing the plates of doll house food.

I was a little worried that the kids might become restive (especially for ballet!).  But they watched intently, making occasional comments as they recognized various elements of the story.  I fast-forwarded through a couple of dance sequences, and afterwards they all wanted to know what they had missed!

Several of the kids had seen The Nutcracker ballet, and I heard comments like, “Oh, I love ballet!”  In any case, all of them were thrilled to make their own mouse masks.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me to record the splendid results.

While searching for a good image from the ballet, I ran across a lengthy Wikipedia entry on The Tale of the Two Bad Mice, which includes a fascinating account of the development of the story.  It includes a photograph of the doll house that Norman Warne built for his niece Winifred, which served as a model for the doll house in Beatrix Potter’s story.

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