EMU’s touring production of "Hare and Tortoise" is racing to a school near you


Four members of the Tortoise and the Hare crew inside the touring van.

After EMU's production of Hare and Tortoise tour to several Ann Arbor schools in a 16-person passenger van, it will perform two public shows at the Sponberg Theatre. Photo courtesy of EMU Theatre's Facebook page.

The Eastern Michigan Department of Theatre is doing a special tour of the beloved Aesop fable Hare and Tortoise. Adapted by Brendan Murray, and directed by Emily Levickas, the show is meant for kids around 3-8 years old, but anyone is welcome to come join the fun.

“We are touring to 10 different local elementary schools and libraries. We'll stop at four Ann Arbor elementary schools, including Abbot, Eberwhite, Haisley, and Wines. We also have two public performances at Eastern Michigan University in the Sponberg Theatre on Friday, November 10 at 7 pm and Saturday, November 11 at 10 am,” said Levickas.

The Tortoise and the Hare are involved in a race. The Hare, being the obvious favorite to win, is arrogant and mocks his competitor, the Tortoise. While the Tortoise knows that hard work and determination are enough to be a winner. In Aesop’s version, the Hare takes a nap during the race, underestimating his opponent, and awakes to the Tortoise crossing the finish line. We get the popular saying “slow and steady wins the race” from this tale. 

With this particular adaptation, Levickas said, “The show is based on the classic Aesop fable, but this adaptation by Brendan Murray explores themes of friendship, opposites, and the passage of time. In the introduction to the adaptation, Murray says "I hit on the idea of letting go and particularly letting go of comfortable, predictable certainties in favor of dangerous, but ultimately more fertile uncertainties. That is to say, a play about the terror and excitement of growing up.”

Creating a play geared toward young audiences can be drastically different than your average show. When I asked Levickas about how the process is different, she said, “When rehearsing a show meant for kids, it is important for us to allow ourselves to be child-like. We laugh a lot and encourage a playful approach. It is a lovely opportunity as adult artists to wonder about elements of the world we think we've figured out.”

She added: “My favorite part of creating performances for children is how the audience is so wonderfully uninhibited! Kids authentically laugh, wiggle, and believe the story. We are passionate about introducing the magic of theatre to a new generation, and it's so rewarding to watch the imaginations of our young audience come to life during the performance.”

Even though the show is geared towards educating kids and showing them some sort of a lesson, the actors working on these shows gain just as much as the young audiences do! Levickas went on to explain what is so unique about working on these TYA shows: “The actors always gain a meaningful experience when performing for a young audience because it's delightfully unpredictable. It keeps us on our toes! We also look to cast performers who already love children because it's important for our team to believe that kids deserve good art.”

Levickas is a veteran of EMU’s touring productions with directing Hare and Tortoise being her sixth show. She understands the challenges that come with taking a show on the road, like being able to fit all the props, the set, cast, crew, and costumes into a 16-passenger van. While it is a lot of work to get the show to and from each location, it makes it all worth it to see the reactions of all the kids. 

“I love that each child will respond to different things. When my 5-year-old son watched the show, he was enthralled with the storyline and kept asking me who I thought would win (he is naturally a hare). My 8-year-old (naturally more of a tortoise) especially loved the artistry of the puppets and the live musician. I hope the themes of the show remind us to slow down and appreciate the small things in life, even in the times when it's hard to wait.”

“We worked with professional set and costume designers, as well as a live musician. This is the first time we've had so much professional/outside collaboration with so many artists. We are delighted to be able to share their work and artistry with everyone. Many thanks to the Michigan Arts and Culture Council and the National Endowment for the Arts for their support.”

Marley Boone is a theater professional who has been in the industry since 2015. While living in Philadelphia, she wrote theater reviews for DC Metro Arts.

“Hare and Tortoise“ is on tour in Ann Arbor schools but it also has two public performances at the Sponberg Theatre on Friday, November 10 at 7 pm and Saturday, November 11 at 10 am, 1030 East Circle Drive, Ypsilanti. More information and tickets can be found here.