The Jardin botanique de Montréal, 20 years ago, saw the birth of a stage work that would go on to conquer the hearts of over 400,000 people, not just its target audience of four to eight year olds but the adults who came with them as well. A star was born: Pépo-citrouille.
Author and director Raynald Michaud created five plays featuring Pépo-citrouille. He worked in collaboration with Diane Turcotte, a coordinator at the Jardin botanique, and with writers Monique Camirand, Anne Trudel, Louise Lalonde and Josée Plourde. Many others contributed to the different creations, including Stéphane Aubin, who wrote original music for all the shows. Since their inception, Pépo plays have been staged each year and almost every day in October at the Jardin botanique auditorium. Children have a great time discovering secrets about plants, dancing and singing in chorus. An adventure with the focus on squash and Halloween!
Characters kids can warm to
Pépo won two Masque awards for his popular success with children before the annual gala celebrating Québec theater came to an end. That success continues today – so what’s the secret of those squash-family characters? Pépo is a pumpkin performed by an actor who speaks and moves like a boy between five and eight. Raynald Michaud tells us that the actors draw their inspiration from children’s actual backgrounds in determining how Pépo acts. Alexandre Gagné, an actor who’s played Pépo for 15 years, explains that he finds material for his character’s behavior in the day-to-day happenings of his teaching job at a childcare center. Raynald Michaud would say that Pépo is the young spectators’ friend. Curious, receptive and charismatic, Pépo invites his audience to accompany him on his adventures. And he gets along with parents pretty well, too. While some boys will identify with Pépo, girls recognize themselves in dynamic characters like a witch who comes on as a pop singer, or Péponide, Pépo’s sister, an endearing and adventurous pumpkin.
A many-sided celebration
Diane Turcotte, coordinator of a number of Halloween activities at the Montréal Botanical Garden, will tell you that Garden employees really put their hearts into bringing magical moments to life for the kids. From the pumpkin-decorating contest to the theatrical presentations in the Main Exhibition Greenhouse, from the Little Monsters Courtyard to the Gardens of Light, there are many people hard at work creating an autumn success story.
If you’d like to see the play La famille de Pépo this year (in French only) and share the adventures of Luffa, Lagenaria and Calebasse, then hurry, because there’s not much time left. The show runs until October 31, 2014. Happiness is something completely orange!