Ten writers for children. All with something to say.


When Picture Books Become Performance

Minnesota Orchestra at Orchestra Hall with When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky

Taking a bow with conductor, Courtney Lewis, and the Minnesota Orchestra
Every once in awhile a picture book leaves the intimate environment of reading between parent and child or the shared classroom reading between teacher and students for the big stage. That is what happened to my book When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky.  The story and pictures, inspired by the historic premier of The Rite of Spring and the riot that it caused in Paris, 1913, caught the imagination of Jim Bartsch, a couple of years ago, when he was the director of education and youth outreach at the Minnesota Orchestra. While I was still painting the illustrations and editing the text, we met several times to plan a performance of the book with the orchestra for young people's and family concerts. However, the Minnesota Orchestra was just starting its historic year and a half long lockout, so our plans were shelved until further notice. 

Meanwhile, us Spuds here on this blog, decided to finally organize a retreat, which you can read about in many of the posts below. Thrilled to finally meet everyone in one place; work together, share together, and play together, I did not pay much heed to the possible conflict of The Rite of Spring concerts being the same week as our retreat. The lock-out of the Musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra seemed endless.

However, in mid-February I was contacted by the orchestra-- the lock-out had ended and there would be twelve performances of The Rite of Spring which would include my reading my book aloud with the orchestra! Meetings with producers, organizers, and the conductor ensued, as well as voice lessons. (Reading aloud to a child in your lap is very different from reading aloud to an audience of several thousand!) While my fellow Spuds gathered for the retreat at the Anderson Center in Redwing, I took to the stage twice a day for six days, reading my story aloud with pacing and drama to go with the accompanist and the illustrations from the book projected on a huge screen, to busloads of school children and families. It was truly the thrill of my life. Listening to the orchestra play The Rite of Spring live twelve times was also thrilling! What a piece of music- no wonder it caused a riot! 

For one night and part of a day between concerts, I was welcomed by my writing Spuds at our retreat. I felt instantly at home, sharing food, conversation, and our writing. It was just a taste of this amazing group of writers, but enough of a taste to want more. I was even able to settle quietly into a chair in the upstairs yellow library to work on some of my stories. A gift. And even more of a gift to see all of the Spuds in the audience at Orchestra Hall on the last day of the retreat. Magnificent!