Olympia Family Theater’s 11th season begins with an elephant and a pig and later visits the famed White Rabbit and a missing goldfish.
“Children’s literature is full of animal characters, but the thing that we and children relate to in them is their humanness,” said Jen Ryle, the company’s artistic director. “It’s just more fun and maybe easier for a child to relate to an animal character.”
“Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play,’ ” opening Friday (Sept. 30), is the children’s theater company’s latest proof of that. Like Frog and Toad, or Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, the play’s heroes are a pair of unlikely friends who weather all kinds of adventures.
For the opening production, animal characters look human, with faces fully visible and costumes that suggest the animal each is meant to portray. Elephant Gerald (Isaac McKenzieSullivan) dresses in neutral tones, while Piggie (Joanna Gibson) wears shades of pink and a jaunty straw hat.
“ ‘Elephant & Piggie’ is a beautiful story of friendship between two very different animals,” said Kate Ayers, who’s directing the show, based on a series of children’s books by author/illustrator Mo Willems. (Incidentally, last fall, Ayers herself played a pig in the company’s “Mercy Watson to the Rescue.”) “Something terrible happens, and it threatens their sweet friendship, and they work through it.”
Terrible, that is, by the standards of theater suited for the youngest of audiences. “There’s a new toy, and somehow it breaks,” she said.
“I saw it at Seattle Children’s Theatre last season and was completely bowled over,” Ryle said. “The wonderful heart and spirit of the show is perfect for OFT.”
It’s a vaudeville-style musical, with a live band and backup singers called The Squirrelles.
Written in 2012, “Elephant & Piggie” is a South Sound premiere. The family theater’s upcoming season also includes two world premieres: a new adaptation of “Alice in Wonderland” by Ayers, who works in the theater’s education department; and “Fishnapped,” an original musical mystery by Andrew Gordon, Amy Shephard and Daven Tillinghast, who’ve been creating grown-up murder mysteries for evenings of dinner theater and fundraisers.
Alice won’t be the season’s only familiar human character. The troublesome herd of Herdman kids will be wreaking holiday havoc in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” and Galileo will travel from curious child to famed astronomer in “Starry Messenger,” intended for older children and teens.
“I’m over the moon excited about ‘Starry Messenger,’ which is a play I’ve wanted to do since OFT started,” Ryle said. “We’re finally established enough to do it. It’s a super challenging ensemble piece.
“It’s really beautiful,” she added. “It speaks to these larger concepts of having original ideas and going against the norm.”
Elephant & Piggie’s “We Are in a Play”
When: 7 p.m. Friday (Sept. 30), Thursday, Oct. 14 and 21; 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunday, Oct. 8-9, 15-16 and 22-23.
Where: Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.
Tickets: $19; $16 for students, seniors and military; $13 for youths 12 and younger. Available at olyft.org or at the box office. For the Thursday performance, pay what you can; tickets for that performance are available only at the box office beginning at noon the day of the show.
Season tickets: $66.50; $56 for students, seniors and military; and $45.50 for youths. Also available are a six-ticket flex pass and a three-show subscription.
Information: 360-570-1638, olyft.org.
The rest of the season
Nov. 25-Dec. 18: “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” based on Barbara Robinson’s best-selling children’s book about a misbehaving group of kids who decide to take over a church pageant.
Jan. 27-Feb. 12: “Starry Messenger,” a fable based on the life of Galileo.
March 17-April 2: “Alice in Wonderland,” Kate Ayers’ new adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s classic.
May 12-June 4: “Fishnapped,” a musical mystery by Olympia writers Amy Shephard, Andrew Gordon and Daven Tillinghast.
Also at Olympia Family Theater
Let’s Play Daytime Shows: A new short show for young audiences happens at 10:30 a.m. four days during one week per month. Next up is “Snow White” Monday and Thursday-Oct. 8. Tickets are $5.
Double Shot: A Festival of Original Theater: A festival of original 10-minute family-friendly plays at 7 and 10 p.m. Nov. 5, and 2 and 5 p.m. Nov. 6. Tickets are $10.
Camps and workshops: Options happen after school and during school breaks. Details at olyft.org/education.