Jane Goodall has a favorite story from childhood she often tells. When she was just 4 or 5 years old, she was determined to learn where eggs came from.
“She snuck into her grandma’s chicken coop and waited all day to watch that miracle happen,” says Patrick McDonnell, the New York Times bestselling author best known for “Mutts,” his internationally syndicated comic strip. “I think that really speaks to who Jane would become, sitting in the jungle and studying animals and just letting them be themselves.”
McDonnell captured inspiring moments like these in his popular children’s book, “Me… Jane” depicting the adventures of Goodall’s animal-fixated childhood. These experiences would lead her to follow her dreams and achieve groundbreaking work studying chimpanzees in their own environment.
Las Vegas families can now watch these fun stories come to life at The Smith Center on April 3, in the live theater production of “Me… Jane: The Dreams & Adventures of Young Jane Goodall,” which McDonnell adapted for the stage with composer Andy Mitton.
The show portrays Goodall’s whimsical childhood through quirky animal puppets and ear-tickling songs, Mitton says, as well as thrilling anecdotes that will entice children to chase their own dreams. “We took real things from Jane’s life and got playful with them, and brought them into the world of children’s theater,” Mitton says. “These meaningful messages only work with kids if it comes through silliness and fun.”
Puppets, Songs and Inspiring Stories
McDonnell first conceived the idea of “Me… Jane” after having the opportunity to meet Jane Goodall in person, he says, which sparked the idea to share her story with children.
“I flipped through her autobiography, and it starts with a picture of Jane at 2 years old with her stuffed chimp doll,” he remembers. “I thought, ‘That’s the book. This little girl who had this dream and made it come true.’”
Commissioned by The Kennedy Center, the live musical production reenacts stories of Goodall’s life that gave rise to her dreams, he adds, like how her dog Rusty ignited her interest in human-animal connections.
“The show has a lot of empathy, and all kids relate to that and to loving animals,” McDonnell says. The show depicts these tales with lively elements to hook children’s interest, including a variety of animal puppets like dogs, chickens and squirrels. Mitton boosted the show’s joyful theme with energetic song-and-dance numbers, he says, which include rock and folksy elements. “I wanted this to be music that kids would want to jump up and dance to,” Mitton says.
A Show for Adults and Children to Share
Adults will relate to elements of the show, too, McDonnell says – especially how young Jane’s mother encourages her daughter’s dreams of venturing to Africa one day.
“She had such a strong mom who believed Jane could do it, and gave her encouragement,” McDonnell says. “That’s a big part of the show, is their special relationship. This is a special show for parents to go to with their kids.”
GO SEE THE SHOW
“Me… Jane: The Dreams & Adventures of Young Jane Goodall” runs April 3 at The Smith Center. Get tickets here!
Best for ages 6 and over.
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