Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.
Whoever said, “everything you need to know in life, you learn in Kindergarten” has obviously never seen One Thing Leads to Another, an immersive, multisensory live experience for babies. The interactive presentation, commissioned by Young People’s Theatre (YPT), provides proof that children can engage, respond and be enthralled in infancy. The unique work was developed from an original concept, research and theme by director, playwright and artist Maja Ardal. Rooted in two years of infant developmental research, it is a collective collaboration by Ardal, Audrey Dwyer, Mary Francis Moore and Julia Tribe.
One Thing Leads to Another was an instant audience hit when it debuted last season. It received two Dora Mavor Moore Awards – for Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Performance, Ensemble – in 2016. This is acclaim which the show’s first and most important critics–the babies– anticipated. Frankly, families couldn’t get enough of One Thing Leads to Another, so first YPT extended the show’s run. But the season ended before many families could experience it. So, given this popularity and YPT’s long-abiding respect for its young audience base, the show was deliberately chosen to launch YPT’s 2016-2017 season.
During her original research, Ms Ardal discovered that the developmental period of 4 to 12 months interested her the most, which led her to develop theatre especially for infants at this stage. “My research and experience tell me that babies are a very focused audience, ambitious to understand the world they are in,’ explains Ms Ardal. “But they also make it very clear ‘if your actions do not have a purpose, I am not interested’. We have taken this guidance very seriously.” Specifically – in collaboration with her theatre colleagues – Ms Ardal has developed consequential scenarios, incorporating music, rhythm, colour and objects to perform for the babies.
So what exactly can the babies (and their grown ups) expect of the show experience? One Thing Leads to Another is a non-verbal show, presented in two parts. The babies and their caregivers experience the presentation in YPT’s smaller studio theatre, an intimate space transformed into a shoe-free playroom-liked environment, with mats and pillows instead of the usual benches. This arrangement places the young people close to the performers, and allows them to experience the show comfortably unconfined – and free to see and respond to the performing artists and the various sensory stimuli.
Director Mary Francis Moore explains that the first part of the presentation is a show with a dual purpose: to capture the attention of the babies and to stimulate ideas for their caregivers. “Our objects are simple and recognizable, and easy to replicate at home.” In the second part of the presentation, the babies are invited to enter the performing space and explore the objects, prompting a different kind of sensory and tactile interaction. “Each element, the colours, the shapes, the movement, the sounds, melodies and rhythms… Every aspect of the performance has been carefully chosen to engage our young audience members. Spatial awareness, sound recognition, immersive engagement, repetition and mirroring are a few of the cognitive markers we are attempting to encourage and stimulate.”
So yes, the show is rooted in research. And it has already garnered considerable acclaim. Yet what babies have acknowledged from the start is simple: the show is a delight. And frankly, they want more. During the show’s initial run, they spoke–and gurgled and giggled . . . and YPT has listened, mounting its welcome return — though only until March 3!
News You Can Use
What: One Thing Leads to Another, a collective collaboration by Maja Ardal, Audrey Dwyer, Mary Francis Moore and Julia Tribe; developed from the original concept, research and theme by Maja Ardal; directed by Mary Francis Moore
Who: Audiences of ages 3 -24 months and their parents/caregivers
When: Running until March 3, 2018
Where: Young People’s Theatre, Studio Theatre, 165 Front Street East, Toronto, ON
For Information and Tickets: youngpeoplestheatre.ca or 416.862.2222
© 2016-2018 Arpita Ghosal, Sesaya
This article was originally published on September 20, 2016 and updated February 18, 2018.