Monday, July 16, 2018

Making a MegaMatterhorn

By C.J. Hirschfield

Once upon a time—2006, to be exact—a wonderful artist named Mary Anne Kluth came to work at Children’s Fairyland as our set-restoration painter. (We always have a whimsical set that needs love, attention and brightening.) Who knew that someday Mary Anne would go on to create wildly fantastic and compelling “theme park collages”—and that her new MegaMatterhorn would be featured in our own Oakland Museum of California for a two-year exhibition? We couldn’t be more excited.

The MegaMatterhorn exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California. Photo: Mary Anne Kluth.

I recently asked Mary Anne whether her experience at Fairyland influenced her whole body of work. I was pleased by her answer: “That’s fair to say.”

Monday, July 9, 2018

"Circus Caps for Sale": The Sweetest Show in Town!

By C.J. Hirschfield

The delightful Circus Center is a San Francisco institution, bringing circus arts to our community so that everyone, great and small, can experience the innovation, creativity and wonder of circus. So step right up, ladies and gentlemen, because for the very first time, Children’s Fairyland is partnering with the Center to present “Circus Caps for Sale” under our very own Oakland big top.

And judging by the squeals of dozens of happy children who attended the first performance on the morning of July 7, we’re pretty sure we have a hit on our hands.

Our production of “Circus Caps,” based on the classic children’s books by Esphyr Slobodkina, features not only an array of accomplished performers but also the stage debut of Fairyland’s mini-horse, Pixie.

Fairyland's mini-horse, Pixie, takes a turn in the ring with trainer Corinna Rezzelle.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Weddings ... at Fairyland?

By C.J. Hirschfield

When you think of events at Children’s Fairyland, kids’ birthday parties come immediately to mind.

But weddings?

Yes, indeed. We have eight booked for this season alone. And why not? We are part of the memories of countless kids who are now millennials, the generation born between 1981 and 1997 who now make up 25 percent of the U.S. population. And data show that 50 percent of millennials are more willing to make a purchase from a company if it supports a cause—and our nonprofit park, which has been serving our community’s kids for nearly 68 years is clearly a cause near and dear to the hearts of young people ready to partner up.

Wedding vows in Aesop's Playhouse

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Highs and Lows of Puppet Shows

By C.J. Hirschfield

Our puppet-theater director, Randal Metz, is also a respected historian of puppets and puppetry. Recently, while researching the history of puppeteers in California, he came across an article in the Puppetry Journal – the quarterly magazine of the Puppeteers of America – that caught his eye. It wasn’t about puppets or puppeteers: It was about shoes. And not just any shoes: the special footwear used by some height-challenged puppeteers to make them tall enough to do their job.

Puppeteers' shoes suggested by Nick LeFeuvre, via the Puppetry Journal

Monday, June 18, 2018

Fairyland's Munchkins

By C.J. Hirschfield

Last month, the last remaining Munchkin – of the more than 100 little people who performed in the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz – died.

He was Jerry Maren, the leader of the Lollipop Guild, and he was 98.

Most of the Munchkins, who sang “We’re Off to See the Wizard” and “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead,” went on to lead non-Hollywood lives. Maren, however, spent his life as a performer – in television, in movies and even as an Oscar Meyer spokesman in the 1950s.

You may not know that two other Munchkins from the Oz movie — the married couple Victor and Edna Wetter – were Children’s Fairyland’s very first “Ambassadors of Goodwill.” In that role they gave tours to thousands of delighted youngsters during Fairyland’s first two years of operation, 1950 to 1952. They ultimately left the park amid a political controversy that was taken all the way to the mayor’s office.

Monday, June 11, 2018

From Cut Paper to Fairyland Stage

By C.J. Hirschfield

So many classic, best-selling children’s books are illustrated with collage that you may assume the technique – sticking various materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric onto a backing – has always been associated with children’s literature. What would The Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle), Tar Beach (Faith Ringgold), Swimmy (Leo Lionni) and The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats) be without their playful and vibrant collage illustrations?

In fact, though, the first American children’s book illustrated with collage, Caps for Sale, wasn’t published until 1940. The story of its author/illustrator, Esphyr Slobodkina, itself reads like a novel – and a version of the book is now being adapted into a magical, musical production exclusively for Children’s Fairyland. “Circus Caps for Sale,” our co-production with the talented folks at San Francisco’s Circus Center, opens in our Aesop’s Playhouse on July 7 and continues on weekends through July 29.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Succeeding Beyond Emancipation: Reuel Mack's Story

By C.J. Hirschfield

Five years ago, I wrote a column about an extraordinary young woman, Reuel Mack, who’d been referred to Fairyland from an organization called Beyond Emancipation, which is Alameda County’s primary provider of services for former foster youth. Reuel had been in the foster system, in many different homes, for most of her life. As a child, she never knew her biological mother. Her father was in jail. She eventually learned she has 11 siblings.

Today I’m proud to share with you a very happy update to Reuel’s story – a story that Reuel herself will tell the guests at our 23rd annual gala fundraiser on Wednesday, May 30.