Stapleton’s senior theater project entertains young and old alike

Rebecca Carvalho

This past Tuesday morning, while millions of Americans were casting their votes, a group of young children entered Lawrence’s Cloak Theatre. “Is this freaky?” asked a little boy about the play, possibly still in the Halloween mood. As the lights turned off, excited giggles came from the children. The stage lights came back on to mark the start of “The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.”Based on the book of the same name written by Neil Gaiman, the piece was adapted for the stage by Brianna Stapleton as her senior project. The inspiration for the play came last fall, when she was studying in Dublin, Ireland. After watching a puppet production of Gaiman, she felt in love with his books – and was particularly interested in his work for kids. “The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish” was one of Gaiman’s books that had not already been adapted for stage. Brianna decided to turn it into a theatrical work, and the result is a very well-humored forty-minute play for both young and adult audiences.
The scenery was simple, with furniture that was constantly moved on and off stage. The main focus was on the adventures of Michael and Janie — two siblings that stayed at home alone with their dad, a boring man that could pay attention only to his newspaper. Michael decides to swap his dad for his friend’s two goldfish. When Mom is back home and notices the absence of Dad, the children are in serious trouble: Both have to go look for Dad and are not allowed to come back without him.
All the performers executed their parts well, but Jem Herron and Erika Thiede were a special joy to have in the play as Michael and Janie respectively. Other remarkable moments were the apparitions of Katy Harth holding two puppets that represented Sawney and Beany, the two goldfish, under an intense blue lighting that turned the Cloak Theatre into an aquarium.
Brianna Stapleton appeared at the end of the play with the performers, and led the kids’ interview. With clever questions about the characters, they proved to be paying close attention to every detail: “Where was his shoes?” asked a boy about Nate Peterson’s character.
“The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish” provided great entertainment on Monday and Tuesday mornings. A combination of Brianna’s passion, help by talented artists, a clever script and an “Awesome.!” sigh that came from the audience, the show gave the great feeling of being a child again that embraced all the adults attending the performance. “Can we have the play again?” — asked a little boy. Yes, can we?