Flocked Together: The Green Parrots of Telegraph Hill, FOGG’s original children’s musical, performs this Friday and Saturday in San Francisco! We got to ask creator Tony Asaro a few questions about the musical.
Q: The show opens in just a few days! What’s happening right now?
Tony: The kids had their first tech rehearsal this weekend, and it was a long day! The costumes are ready, the sets are ready, and they’re practicing their tech cues. It’s so much fun to see the kids learning the show!
Q: How are you feeling now that you’re about to see your show performed?
Tony: I’m so excited to see the kids inhabit these characters. This is the first children’s piece I’ve ever written, but I have worked in youth theatre all of my adult life. It’s so exciting for me to have these kids learning my words and music. I couldn’t be prouder of this piece. I can’t wait for the audiences to see it.
Q: How was writing this show different from writing for adults?
Tony: I didn’t treat it that differently, to be honest. I tried to make the music easier to learn than I would an adult piece. Simpler. Tuneful. But in terms of story-telling, I wrote this piece like I would any other. I find that a lot of theatre written specifically for young performers patronizes children and underestimates them. That’s why it is so important to me that Flocked Together treats its young cast members with respect, honoring them for the bright, observant, capable artists that they are. And I didn’t want to condescend to the audience either. I don’t think it matters if the audience is adults or children. A good story is a good story. A sympathetic character is relatable at any age. We all want to belong. We all face adversity. This is as true of 4 and 5 year olds as it is of their parents and grandparents. I hope the show appeals to all of these.
Q: What are the themes of the show?
Tony: With Flocked Together, I wanted to create a story that champions inclusivity and tolerance, and using one’s voice to stand up for what’s right. These are values of the Bay Area, and values that I believe we need to foster in the next generation.
I truly believe that stories we tell shape the world in which we live. And if that’s true, then being a writer is a huge and terrifying responsibility, particularly when writing a piece for children. The possibility of a misstep always looms overhead. But these stories–stories of being compassionate and brave, and respecting one another–are needed now more than ever.
Q: How did it come to be about the parrots of Telegraph Hill?
Tony: Well, I used to work at a publishing company at the bottom of Telegraph Hill, right by the entrance to the Filbert steps. I’ve always been enamored of the parrots. I used to take my lunch breaks on the roof deck and watch them. When it was decided that I would write the next youth show, I knew right away that I wanted to make it about the parrots. Since most of our youth efforts are focused in North Beach right now, I thought it would be great to tell a story set right in the kids’ own back yard.
The impetus for the plot came from the documentary “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”. There is a blue-headed parrot that lived with all the cherry-headed parrots. Despite being a different species, he functioned as a part of the cherry-head flock. I wondered how this parrot became part of the flock, and I decided it would be a great exploration. It’s kind of a prequel to the documentary in a way. I used the name Connor because that was the blue parrot’s name in the documentary.
Q: What did you learn as an artist from writing this show?
Tony: Reinforcing certain ideas musically and lyrically to tell the story is really crucial. That’s true in general, and will be true going forward. It’s true of “Hamilton”. You need to design your “signposts” or “landmarks” in the songs so that as you keep coming back to them and you reuse them smartly, it helps to tell the story. That’s something I’ve always done, but I’m really starting to understand the importance of it and starting to implement in even more successful ways. With kids, repetition is a big deal. It is with adults, too!
Flocked Together: The Green Parrots of Telegraph Hill performs this Friday and Saturday in San Francisco. Get your tickets now.
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