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From the Archives – Whoopsi Kerplonk

April 23, 2020

For about twenty years, Touchstone earned much if not the bulk of its income creating original theatre for children. It was a natural progression: the company grew from our street theatre experiments on the playgrounds of Bethlehem, our audiences there were primarily children, so we created work to serve their interests and needs. Every summer we’d end the season with one or more children’s pieces (we usually did two productions a summer, but sometimes as many as three), and it was simply a waste of time and hard work to throw them away, and we had no way to store them long term.  So, we began approaching the schools to see if they’d like to hire us as part of their arts programming for the school year.  Before long, touring to the schools had become more of an income stream than the street theatre program itself.

One of our most successful children’s pieces was Whoopsi Kerplonk, created through improvisation by Lorraine Zeller and myself around an idea by Bridget George. Two innocents, children– one mischievous and needy, the other generous and a bit of a “goody two-shoes”– live in large, letter-block houses and come to understand: to play with each other, they must learn to share. Set and costumes were designed by Gail Saraceno of Saraceno & Sayre Design. Whoopsi was successful because it really connected with audiences, could be set up or taken down in fifteen minutes, and provided a wonderful structure for spontaneous play – it gave power over the performance to the performers. Whoopsi Kerplonk (Whoopsi and Kerplonk were the two characters) went through three different casts and was toured for about five years, and was charming, a delight to perform, and morally instructive in an honest way. Maybe it’ll come back again. I remember performing it for Paul Curtis, and his comment was:  “It’s like a piece of cloth; you can just unroll it by the yard.”

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