Children's Theatre Workshop is a class offered in the Department of Communication, Media and Theatre  designed to cover all aspects of production culminating in performances for elementary and  middle school  students.

Fall 2009
Señora Tortuga
by Roxanne Schroeder-Arce
Directed by Ann Hartdegen

*Director’s Notes*

For more than 20 years The Children's Theatre Workshop has produced two plays every year for local grade schools.  Last year's bilingual production of ¡BOCÓN! was very popular with local schools;  this year’s production of SEÑORA TORTUGA will be seen by almost 1000 children in grades 3 through 6. 

In SEÑORA TORTUGA playwright Roxanne Schroeder-Arce uses characters and archetypes from Mexican and Hispanic folktales and legends in a bilingual play about a contemporary immigrant family.

Pedro is a rambunctious boy living with his family in a makeshift home in a barn on the American side of the U.S./Mexican border.  One day a mysterious woman appears looking for food and, although their means are very limited, Pedro’s mother decides to teach her children a lesson about sharing and invites the strange woman to stay for dinner.  The odd woman introduces herself as Señora Tortuga or - to the children’s delight - Mrs. Turtle.  Señora Tortuga reciprocates their hospitality by telling the children stories of Juan Bobo, a “wise fool” character of Hispanic folklore.  The children are entranced, but their mother is wary of this unusual woman who encourages her children to indulge in fantasy.  That night Pedro has a vivid dream in which he is the Juan Bobo of the legend.

Señora Tortuga returns for the next two days, apparently appearing out of thin air when the children return home from school.  She tells stories of El Cucuy, the boogeyman of Mexican legend, and of the mythical Serpent of El Dorado, who guards the treasure at the bottom of Lake Guatavita.  Each story has a cautionary lesson, and after each story telling session the characters return in Pedro’s increasingly frightening dreams.  Pedro learns from the stories and dreams, and this begins to have a positive effect on his behavior.  In spite of this, his mother Leticia continues to engage in a battle of wills with Señora Tortuga, pitting the hard realities of survival in contemporary America against the wisdom and whimsy of folklore.  In the final scene of the play Señora Tortuga’s true nature - and her past connection with Leticia - is revealed.  

There must be something very seductive to us about the idea of a human being who is able to take the form of another person or an animal.  Every culture, from prehistory to the present, has tales of Shapeshifters, people who can, at will, transform themselves into something else.  This was a favourite trick of Zeus in Greek mythology, and the first century Roman poet Ovid wrote an epic poem, Metamorphoses, exploring such tales.  African, European, Native American, South American, Chinese and Indian folklore all include tales of Shapeshifters.  Even today the popular Transformer robot toys and many books and films (Harry Potter, X Men) exploit this intriguing idea.

Señora Tortuga emerges from the river, transforming herself from a tortuga, a turtle, into a mysterious stranger...
        (L to R – Ashley Henry, Dania Castillo, Matt Polos, Tiffiny Blake – obscured Patricia Barnes, Sandra Sansaver)

Pedro, who lives with his family in a makeshift home in a barn near the river, is a rambunctious boy who tries his mother’s patience.
  (L to R – Norma Saldana, Michael Rivera)

Señora Tortuga and the musicians watch as Pedro gives his mother a hard time. 
        (L to R –Dania Castillo, Tiffiny Blake, Arick Lockhart)

Señora Tortuga appears to Pedro,
(L to R –Michael Rivera, Tiffiny Blake, Dania Castillo)

and then to his mother, asking for food.
(L to R – Norma Saldana, Michael Rivera, Tiffiny Blake, Dania Castillo)

Leticia, Pedro’s mother, is suspicious of Señora Tortuga,
(L to R – Norma Saldana, Dania Castillo)

But Pedro and his sister, Claudia, love Señora Tortuga’s stories of Juan Bobo, the “wise fool” of Mexican folktales...
(L to R – Nadja Jackson, Dania Castillo, Michael Rivera)

...which magically appear before them as she tells the story.
(L to R – Tiffiny Blake, Sandra Sansaver, Matt Polos)

The next day, Señora Tortuga reappears and tells Pedro and Claudia the story of two naughty children, who lie to their mother, and who are threatened by El Cucuy, the “boogey man” of Mexican folklore.
(L to R –Ashley Henry, Arick Lockhart)

That night El Cucuy appears in Pedro’s dream...
(L to R – Matt Polos, Dania Castillo, Tiffiny Blake) all his fearsome glory...
(Matt Polos) frighten Pedro into telling the truth.
(L to R – Michael Rivera, Matt Polos)

The next day, Señora Tortuga reappears once more and tells Pedro and Claudia the story of El Dorado –
(L to R – Michael Rivera, Dania Castillo, Nadja Jackson)

a lake filled with treasure guarded by a monstrous serpent.
(L to R – Patricia Barnes, Ashley Henry, Arick Lockhart)

That night the Serpent from the story appears in Pedro’s dream, and frightens Pedro until…
    (L to R – Michael Rivera, Arick Lockhart)

...Pedro offers up his sister.  On waking he immediately regrets his action...
(L to R - Michael Rivera, Ashley Henry, Arick Lockhart)

...and Señora Tortuga, her work done, returns to her original form,
(L to R – Nadja Jackson, Michael Rivera, Norma Saldana, Tiffiny Blake, Arick Lockhart, Ashley Henry)

and the family settles in to read the stories given them by Señora Tortuga.
(L to R – Nadja Jackson, Michael Rivera, Norma Saldana)

While Señora Tortuga, released into the river,
  (Norma Saldana)

…takes her stories of frightening serpents
(Arick Lockhart)

- and even scarier mothers – to other children around the world. 
(Patricia Barnes)

Full Company
Front row, L to R - Emily Mooney, Taylor Miller, Thomastrius Murray, Sharon Perez, Colleen McCready
Middle row, L to R - Patricia Barnes, Sandra Sansaver, Matthew Polos, Ashley Henry, Arick Lockhart, Tiffiny Blake
Back row – L to R - Nadja Jackson, Norma Saldana, Michael Rivera, Dania Castillo

(L to R - Taylor Miller, Thomastrius Murray, Colleen McCready, Sharon Perez, Emily Mooney)

Photographs by Ann Hartdegen

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