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New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York’s theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we’re passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
January 26, 2017

An Inside Look at Elephant & Piggie with Creator Mo Willems


Ever since they were first created, Mo Willem's Elephant & Piggie books have enchanted both young readers and their parents. Now, the dynamic duo dances onto The New Victory Theater stage in a musical! We sat down with Mo Willems, their original creator and author of the script, to ask him a few questions about theater, his characters and writing a story! 
 

Elephant and Piggie in the Musical1. How did Elephant and Piggie become a musical? 
 
The folks at the Kennedy Center and I started discussing creating a theater piece for Elephant and Piggie while we were producing Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical. Initially, I was reluctant, as I couldn't get a handle on what type of story to tell. But, when the idea of a vaudevillian 'revue' of Elephant and Piggie's greatest came up, I was excited to get the creative team back together and go!
 
2. What does "Love of Theater" mean to you? 
 
Live performances have a unique magic. Every single person involved (the actors, the technicians, the ushers, the theater staff and YOU) decided to show up at the same place, in the same moment to experience the same thing together. So, each show is a dialog between the performers and the audience that can never be repeated. Collectively, we all share a special bond for a short time before we go back home to our normal lives. That's pretty cool.
 
Elephant and Piggie in the Books3. What's the most important aspect of both Elephant and Piggie that you want the two actors to capture in their performances?
 
Elephant and Piggie squabble, have misunderstandings and make mistakes. But, through it all, they are always generous in their love for each other. It's tricky being so silly while keeping a real emotional connection with each other and the audience.
 
5. Do you have a favorite anecdote about an Elephant and Piggie fan? 
 
Once during the "Should I Share My Ice Cream?" section of the play, when Elephant Gerald decides he WILL share his ice-cream a young audience member cried out, "You FOOL!"
 
6. What's your first step in creating a new story?
 
For me, every story is a question I don't know the answer to. I figure that if I don't know the answer, then maybe my audience doesn't either and we can discover it together. I always think of my audience, but never think FOR my audience.
 
7. Do you have a favorite moment or song from Elephant & Piggie's We Are in a Play?
 
That's easy: the applause at the end of the show! Actually it's not for me to decide what works in the play. YOU get to choose what you liked (and what you didn't like so much). That's part of the dialogue.

© Artwork by Mo Willems
 
Candace Penn Mo Willems is a Number 1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, is bestknown for his Caldecott Honor picture books Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, KnuffleBunny: A Cautionary Tale and Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. His Elephant and Piggie early reader series have consistently topped the New York Times best seller lists, been translated into numerous languages and have been awarded two Theodor Geisel Medals and five Geisel Honors since debutingin 2007. Mr. Willems began his career as a writer and animator for Sesame Street (PBS), where he garnered six Emmy Awards for writing. His television career includes creating The Off-Beats (Nickelodeon) and Sheep in the Big City (Cartoon Network) and serving as head writer for Codename: Kids Next Door (Cartoon Network). Since leaving television, he has continued to produce short animated films based on his books that have won numerous awards in festivals around the world. As a performer, Mr. Willems has appeared at numerous venues including the San Francisco Sketchfest, BBC Radio and NPR. His first play, Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical, also a Kennedy Center commission, was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for best new play. Mr. Willems is honored to be working with the Kennedy Center again for this production. Read more here. Banana!
   
Posted by Beth Henderson
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