Bullying Theme Gets Colorful in ‘Pink Elephant’
If there is a place in Miami where original work can get its due – particularly in the children’s theater genre – Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores is the space. Stephanie Ansin, co-founder and artistic director of MTC, and her executive director Elaiza Irizarry had been discussing an original show for children with an anti-bullying theme. Luckner “Lucky” Bruno, Jr., the resident voice and movement director for MTC for almost four years, said he had been wanting to do something about the same subject “for years.”
He came up with a show “The Legend of the Pink Elephant,” which he describes as a circus-theater-dance musical that gets its world premiere on the main stage of MTC Sept. 9.
The story, about an elephant that is born pink and ends up being bullied out of the herd because of his unusual color, may have a familiar theme, yet Bruno said he approached the writing, the music and the overall presentation through a new lens.
“I wanted to create something that would engage an audience, but also challenge them. Bring them something that they’ve haven’t seen before.” The Miami Shores native and University of Miami graduate is an actor, singer and dancer, but he’s also a circus performer, aerialist, and martial artist.
“The show truly makes the audience think outside of the box. When you see a stilt walker, they are usually standing and waving, but have you seen someone on stilts breakdancing?” He wants audiences to say, “Wow, I didn’t know that was possible.”
The multi-talented performer also taught his actors to “learn to fly in the air under their own strength.” Bruno explains: “So what this does is it takes an image and breaks it down and then repositions the image in a way that people are not expecting.”
The script, which was completed in February, also has original music. He wrote the lyrics and melodies for the show that takes place in the African Congo “a long time ago.” MTC’s composer-sound designer Luciano Stazzone composed the original music.
“We tell a story with a voice that sounds African and there are different types of music [from] throughout Africa, and we have a bit of that within the show,” says Bruno.
Final casting of the performers, a cast of eight, was completed in March. The actors, he says, needed to be trained in circus skills, so he spent the past four months working on the demands of extreme acrobatics, stilts breakdancing and the aerial stunts “Elephant” required. In the beginning of August, the production was finally ready to begin rehearsal in the mainstage theater. “That was when we joined the show part to the circus part.”
Bruno began a page on Go Fund Me with a $20,000 goal to help raise funds for the original show. Thirty-six supporters pitched in $1,783 collectively and The Children’s Trust of Miami, an independently run group, which funds children’s programs through a property tax collected in Miami-Dade, also helped to fund the show. MTC is a partner as well.
“The Legend of the Pink Elephant” is another original work to add to MTC’s canon of young people’s theater creations. MTC has been an evolution from Ansin’s The Playground Theatre, which she founded in 2004, where a repertoire of shows for young audiences would be produced and presented. MTC has since added other original and reimagined works for adults. Like the other inventive young people’s theater here, “Elephant” is thematically positioned for multi-generational audiences.
“I’ve seen and been a part of many different things in my life as a black performer,” says Bruno. “But rather than ranting on Facebook or just being angry, I thought why shouldn’t I write something that will speak to anyone who has ever felt different – something that talks to the next generation to get them to understand that there’s nothing wrong with thinking or being something different?”
He points to the negative effects of social media in the modern age. “We are so hooked into social media and it tells us that this is what is beautiful and this is how you have to dress and this is what is going on, so thinking about yourself in an introspective way is something so rare nowadays.”
The gentle “Pink Elephant” is meant to create “a stir and a buzz,” says Bruno. “To get people to say, ‘You know, let me question these things and let me do something about it.’ “
MTC has a partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools, where more than 2,000 school children will attend the show during the run through the Visual & Performing Arts, Division of Academics. MTC busses the students to the theater and picks up the tab for transportation, according to the producers. Says Irizarry, ” This is a beautiful and powerful story. I think people will love the work. Students who come to see it will find answers for many things.”
“The Legend of the Pink Elephant,” Sept. 9 through Sept. 24; 10:30 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 10:00 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays; 7:00 p.m. Saturdays; and 3:00 p.m. Sundays, at the Miami Theater Center, 9806 N.E. 2nd Ave., Miami Shores. Tickets are $15 -$25. Information at www.mtcmiami.org or 305.751.9550.