Arts

Center For Puppetry Arts Draws On Old Tech For ‘Harold And The Purple Crayon’ Adaptation

Jimmica Collins and Jon Ludwig joined Lois Reitzes on today's "City Lights."
Jimmica Collins and Jon Ludwig joined Lois Reitzes on today's "City Lights."
Credit Summer Evans / WABE

Harold knew he wouldn’t get anywhere on the long, straight path, so he took a shortcut to the Center for Puppetry Arts. The beloved “Harold and the Purple Crayon” series of books by Crockett Johnson has been adapted by the Center.

“Harold and the Purple Crayon” is onstage at the Center for Puppetry Arts April 2 -May 26.

“It’s about empowerment,” artistic director Jon Ludwig tells “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes, “he has the power to create his world, he has the power to get himself in trouble, and he has the power to get out of it.”

While the Center’s past productions adapted from children’s books like “The Cat in the Hat,” “Pete the Cat,” or their annual production based on the Rankin Bass “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” were all rich in detail, Harold’s world is much more minimal and more of a blank canvas, occupied only by Harold and the purple lines he creates. This presented Ludwig and his team with a technical challenge in putting the story on stage.

“The action of drawing was like ‘how are we going to pull this off?'” Ludwig said.

He told Reitzes they considered and dismissed representing them physically and projected animation. They settled on a technique from the 19th century called “Pepper’s Ghost.”

“If anybody’s been to ‘The Haunted Mansion’ at Disneyland, that’s what it is,” he says. “It’s a clear piece of acetate, a very large screen that’s at a 45 degree angle to the audience. They don’t see it, but what they see is the reflection of the animations that’s bounced off from the floor onto the screen. So it looks three-dimensional.”

Puppeteer Jimmica Collins says working on the production has reinforced for her the idea that anyone can be creative.

“Anyone can create their own stories and their own worlds,” she says. “I work with a lot of kids, and I’m hoping they will see these images and realize ‘I can draw something too.'”