Hare & Tortoise sprint in Canadian premiere
As a kid, Kurtis Leon Baker recalls watching Carousel Players visit his school with their children’s plays. One show in particular, “The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe,” starred the company’s current artistic director Monica Dufault.
Flash forward 18 years, and it’s Baker now performing in front of school kids in a Carousel Players show. Directed by Dufault, no less.
The Canadian premiere of Brendan Murray’s “Hare & Tortoise,” a whimsical new version of the familiar fable, has been touring Niagara schools this month and comes to the Niagara Falls History Museum April 28. Baker stars as Hare, who can’t wait for spring to arrive so he can race his good buddy Tortoise (Kaleigh Gorka). But Tortoise has some housekeeping to do first, and wants to appreciate the season for awhile.
The 50-minute show won Best Play for Children at the 2012 Writers Guild of Great Britain Awards. Now, when he looks out into the audience, Baker says he sees the same sense of wonder he likely had watching Carousel all those years ago.
“I still am a little kid when I go to theatre,” he says. “I experience it in whatever capacity I can. I love going to see anything and everything.”
Unlike previous versions of the story, which depict the Hare as a bully who loses the race because of his arrogance, Baker’s
Hare is just over-anxious to race his friend. The Tortoise, meanwhile, simply wants to hit pause and enjoy the day.
“More so than ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ it’s really about letting go,” he says. “It’s about trusting each other and the friendship. Really slowing down and observing, enjoying what is around you.”
The show features original music by Niagara’s Joe Lapinski, and sets by Brock University instructor Kelly Wolf.
Baker, who starred in the Shaw Festival’s production of “Merrily We Roll Along” in 2002 when he was eight, spent five years in New York before making his “fun re-introduction” to Niagara theatre with this show.
Kurtis Leon Baker and Kaleigh Gorka star in Carousel Players' production of Hare & Tortoise.