So far this year, our shows have included everything from undersea adventure in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
to eye-popping African circus tricks in Mother Africa: My Home
, but we've yet to see a show quite like Oh Boy!
Based on the French book of the same name, Oh Boy!
tells the story of Balthazar as he tries to give up his party boy ways to care for his half-brother and half-sisters.
We sat down to talk to Olivier Letellier, the director of this one-man play, about adapting the story, his initial inspiration and ping pong balls!
1. Do you remember the first time you read the book Oh Boy!? What did you think of it?
I was stuck by the rhythm of the story, the sensitivity of the characters, the audacity of the themes and the humor of the author, Marie-Aude Murail.
2. Why does this book make such a great play?
The story is bright and full of hope, helping readers to grow and look at the world with enthusiasm. Also, the character of Balthazar is so singular, positive and touching that he becomes an endearing hero.
3. Why is it important for kids to see shows with mature themes, like Oh Boy!?
It’s about emotions that cross their minds and make them question things every day. They may face obstacles so it’s important they realize others share their emotions. It helps them better understand what they're feeling.
4. Why did you decide to make this a one-man show instead of a play with many actors?
Balthazar is a great young man. He can be funny and touching, sensitive and blundering all at the same time. He becomes the audience's ideal big brother while telling us his story.
When the storyteller is alone on stage, addressing each of us, he sparks our own imaginations and the story becomes our own. I find that the audience becomes more active when they visualize the story for themselves.
5. What sight are you most looking forward to seeing while you’re in NYC?
Central Park in the snow!
6. Why did you choose those specific objects to represent the kids?
Each object describes a personality trait of a character. Audiences can understand the spirit of the character, without needing words. The dictionary represents the gifted Siméon, the duck represents the fragile Morgan (by referring to the "ugly duckling") and the book with the heart and glitter instantly tells us about the pretty Venice. These objects have an evocative and emotional power that connects us all because they’re present in our daily life. We all know these symbols since they’re common cultural references.
7. Do you have a favorite audience reaction to the show?
8. If you had to use one word to describe Oh Boy! what would it be?
In 2010, when we created the show, a teacher told us she had hesitated to take one of her students to see it: his personal story was very close to the one told in the show. He had lost his mother and had never known his father... Back in class, she talked with her students about their respective impressions. She was trying to see if he had any particular reaction. Nothing. After a long while, when her class’s exchange became very animated, he raised his hand to ask a simple question: "So, does that mean I also have the right to be happy?"
9. How many ping pong balls have you gone through since opening the show?
About 64,000. If you lined them all up, they would almost reach a mile and a half long!
||Trained at the French school Jacques Lecoq, Olivier Letellier acted in his first show, L’Homme de fer, a play for young audiences based on a Grimm fairy-tale, with his company, Théâtre du Phare, in 2004. Three years later he created and interpreted La Mort du roi Tsongor, based on the novel by Laurent Gaudé. In 2009, he staged Oh Boy!, based on the novel by Marie-Aude Murail, for which he received a Young Audiences Molière award in 2010. In 2014, he initiated the Playwriting for Young Audiences project, in collaboration with the authors Sylvain Levey, Magali Mougel and Catherine Verlaguet, which gave birth to three plays in the 2015-2016 season: Maintenant que je sais, Je ne veux plus, Me taire (Now That I Know, I No Longer Want To, Be Silent).
In July 2016, he directed the opera Kalila wa Dimna by Moneim Adwan, commissioned by the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. His latest creation, La nuit où le jour s'est levé (The Night Where the Day Rises), was co-written by Sylvain Levey, Magali Mougel and Catherine Verlaguet, and presented by the National Theater of Chaillot at the Théâtre des Abbesses in November 2016. In January 2017, he adapted his show Oh Boy! (still on tour in France) for the creation of an English version in New York. Olivier Letellier is currently the associate artist at the Théâtre National de Chaillot.
||Experience this audacious and moving story for yourself here!