Monday, November 17, 2008

Beyond FUN: RIVER STORY by Margarita Blush

Yesterday featured a Sunday drive up to Boulder to see an amazing shadow puppet play in the Canyon Theater of the Boulder Public Library. The play, River Story, is based on the Bulgarian folktale “Zlatka, the Girl Made out of Gold.” Margarita Blush, a friend and fellow 2008 Rocky Mountain Women’s Institute associate, is a native of Bulgaria as well as an extremely talented performance artist. Also a theatre and drama teacher at the Ricks Center for Gifted Children in Denver, Margarita not only performs in River Story, she adapted the story, helped design props and costumes, and directed and designed the entire production.

And what a production it is! River Story effectively melds dramatic storytelling and acting with music, puppetry, stunning shadow effects and the use of unique physical props. Before a full house that consisted mainly of very young families, the play captivated toddlers and preschoolers as effectively as it entertained adults.

While teaching the rewards of kind treatment of others, River Story also reminds viewers of their own inner strengths and goodness. As Margarita puts it:

“Through traditional folk wisdom and beautiful imagery, this tale reminds us that we can shape our own destinies, that we hold the key to happiness in our own hearts. The story tells of a kind young maiden, Zlatka, who overcomes obstacles to discover her own strength and the path to happiness.”

Parts of River Story feature a Veela—a mythological woodland fairy—who lives deep in the Bulgarian forest. Performed by Margarita’s mentor, fellow puppeteer, and amazing designer Betsy Tobin of Now Or Never Theatre, the Veela guides Zlatka in her life-changing journey.

Betsy Tobin not only brings the Veela—and a number of other diverse River Story characters—to life, she designed and created the two stunning hand-held puppets used in the play as well as a fun mask she wears at different points. The energy and convictions that fuel Betsy’s acting contribute not only to the overall performance of River Story, but to the immense interest of the show to even the youngest audience members.

Special lighting handled by Jesse Tobin Weiss; incredible wood and metal set pieces built by Margarita’s husband, Robert Blush; terrific acting and behind-the-scenes work by cast member Ashley Adams; and memorable music by cellist James Hoskins also seamlessly contribute to the River Story production. James Hoskins’ use of traditional instruments such as the Bulgarian folk-fiddle and Margarita’s fun Bulgarian dancing and ephemeral singing help audience members of all ages imagine life in a far-away land and welcome them to experience it with joy.

“I have wanted to share the magic and beauty of Bulgarian folklore with American audiences for a long time,” Margarita notes. “River Story is the fruit of that desire; it embodies my love for Bulgarian mythology, music, and tradition. I hope this story will touch the hearts of those who see it with the power of images, sounds, and ideas that are true to all of us and bring us together.”

Photos from after the production of River Story at the Boulder Public Library © Karen DeGroot Carter, thank you very much! While my daughters really enjoyed seeing the actors and puppets and props up close, they most enjoyed meeting Margarita’s sweet daughter, Sophia. Many thanks to all the cast members for sharing their love of theatre with audience members after their show. The entire experience was truly one my girls and I will always remember.

Schools, recreation districts, libraries, and other organizations interested in scheduling a production of River Story are welcome to contact Margarita Blush directly at margaritablush AT


Blogger Barrie said...

It's been ages since I took any of my kids to a puppet show.

11:14 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

I know, Barrie, and it's so much fun. :)

1:06 PM  
Blogger debra said...

Hand crafted puppets are so beautiful, and the story you describe just adds to the beauty. Thanks for sharing it.

2:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Thanksgiving.

6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Karen,
What a fantastic comment on Margarita's work. I've posted a link to your blog on Margarita's website! You guys can see her perform again this August at the Boulder Fringe.

Thanks! Robert

8:10 PM  
Blogger Sustenance Scout said...

Thanks for the heads up, Robert...and the link! K.

3:28 PM  

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