Grumbling Gryphons Programs

Grumbling Gryphons is a Traveling Children's Theater (winner of the 2003 Connecticut Governor’s Arts Award) and is the creation of founder and Artistic Director Leslie Elias - playwright, actress, storyteller, and theater director. Grumbling Gryphons provides performances, summer camps, workshops, and residences for children and adults using subjects such as poetry and myth, building self-esteem, or dramatizing historical themes. Please tour our site and contact us for more information: grumblinggryphons@gmail.com

choosing a grumbling gryphon’s
theatrical production

The Ghost Net: An Environmental Musical of the Sea premiered in 1990 as part of an environmental expo - “The Visit of the Mimi” held at Captain’s Cove Seaport in Bridgeport, CT, which thousands of school children attended. With the invaluable input by marine biologist Barbara Whitman and other environmental educators, Leslie Elias created a play that has served as a powerful vehicle for promoting awareness of our planet’s rapidly depleting oceans and endangered marine life. Since 1990 the show has toured the United States, receiving rave reviews for it’s beautiful artistry and timely message. Sixty of the ocean costumes were featured in New York City’s 25th Anniversary of Earth Day. In Florida, The Grumbling Gryphons were instrumental in helping to get Amendment Three passed, which enforced the banning of net fishing. The Ghost Net was chosen to be the kickoff event for New England’s Coast Weeks as part of National Beach Cleanup Campaign. Says David Brown of Miami, “As an environmental educator for the past sixteen years and a marine science instructor for the past nine, I have not been able to find a program of comparable quality.”

In a school performance of The Ghost Net: An Environmental Musical of the Sea a principal may don a special “Trash-Robe” and join the oldest students who wear original trash outfits in the musical/dance number called the “Slimy Sludge Rap.” The music teacher joins other students in a calypso melody called The Coral Reef Calypso where the stage is transformed into a dazzling ocean filled with students dancing and singing as beautiful tropical fish. Still other students take on the dramatic roles of skeleton fish, entrapped in the deadly ghost net, which to this day is a major deathtrap for whales, dolphins and various sea creatures. The younger students play the parts of manatees, clams, minnows, electric eels and more. At the end of the show, all the children join in the final song, “Stop the War on the Sea” and help pull out the ghost net, working together to rid the ocean of this menace.

Other Grumbling Gryphon’s’ productions focus on multi-cultural awareness, integrating authentic melodies, masks, costumes and language from that culture.

Anansi The Trickster Spider: A West African Folktale was featured at The American Museum of Natural History in New York as part of a celebration of Black History Month. Anansi retrieves stolen stories from Nyame the Sky God by tricking animals of the jungle and enlisting the help of the audience. Through pre-performance workshops, children become village dancers, monkeys, elephants, hippos, bees, crocodiles, spiders and more learning songs, chants and movement to perform in the show.

Trickster Tales: Native American Animal Legends was developed with the cooperation of The Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT. where it premiered for founders' day on July 31, 1982. Says Trudy Richmond, former chief of the Schagticoke Indians - “Your sensitivity to Native American life ways and culture is appreciated...thanks for the wonderful performance!” In 1989, this show was performed at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts for close to a thousand people. Children are spellbound by three humorous tales, which tell how the brave and ingenious trickster animals­–Raven, Skunk and Coyote–come to the rescue of the Indians. The sets, costumes and masks, songs and instrumental music, are all authentic representations of Plains Indian, Fox Indian, and Northwest Coast Native American cultures.

The Myth of Persephone is a spellbinding dramatization of the ancient Greek myth, which tells the story of how the seasons came to be, and exposes children to the classical Greek myth in a highly entertaining and engaging way. Lord Pluto takes Persephone away from the earth and her mother, Goddess Demeter, and holds her captive in Hades, guarded by Cerberus, the Three-Headed Dog. The children in the audience become the Greek chorus, chanting, singing and helping the gods and goddesses rescue Persephone from the underworld. With their aid, Persephone returns from Hades and we all learn how the seasons came to be. Robert Flannagan who designed the masks, also designs for the Muppets. This show opened in 1980 in New York City’s Central Park and has toured internationally delighting audiences ever since.

performances

Performances can include a pre-performance workshop on request.

1. The Ghost Net: An Environmental musical of the sea,

with its colorful and imaginative costumes and music, has received rave reviews from both theatrical and environmental groups It tells the story of Marina, a young girl who is taken by a friendly dolphin on a fantastic tour of the ocean, where she sees the effects that plastic trash, enveloping oil spills, and garbage and the deadly, drifting ghost nets have on the creatures of the sea. Humor and music abound as the black-backed gull sings the blues, the tropical fish dance and sing a calypso number, and "Sludge" performs a rap song. We performed The Ghost Net in Dec. 2009 at the Connecticut Science Center.

 

Trickster Tales

2. Trickster Tales: Native American Animal Legends,

researched and developed with the cooperation and support of the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington, CT., has been highly praised for its authenticity and sensitivity to Native American life ways. Children are spellbound by three humorous tales, which tell how the brave and ingenious trickster animals­–Raven, Skunk and Coyote–come to the rescue of the Indians. The sets, costumes and masks, songs and instrumental music, are all authentic representations of Plains Indian, Fox Indian, and Northwest Coast Native American cultures.

 

Persephone

3. The Myth of Persephone

is the Greek myth of how the seasons came to be. Lord Pluto takes Persephone away from the earth and her mother, Goddess Demeter, and holds her captive in Hades, guarded by Cerberus, the Three-Headed Dog. The children in the audience become the Greek chorus, chanting, singing and helping the gods and goddesses rescue Persephone from the underworld. With their aid, Persephone returns from Hades and we all learn how the seasons came to be. We performed The Myth of Persephone in Nov. 2010 at the Hudson River Museum and in Feb. 2011 at the New England Carousel Museum.

 

Anansi

4. Anansi -The Trickster Spider: A West African Folktale

A delightful musical adaptation of this traditional story from Ghana based on
Anansi-the Trickster Spider. Anansi retrieves stolen stories from Nyame the Sky God by tricking animals of the jungle and enlisting the help of the audience. Through pre-performance workshops, children become village dancers, monkeys, elephants, hippos, bees, crocodiles, spiders and more learning songs, chants and movement to perform in the show. We performed Anansi - The Trickster Spider in March 2011 at the Puppetry Festival in Washington, CT.

 

workshops

Leslie Elias brings masks, costumes, musical instruments and her years of expertise into the workshop, creating a unique dramatic experience for your students or audience. Leslie Elias conducts workshops, alone, or with a keyboard player and one or two assistants.

1. Anansi the Trickster Spider (West African Folktale) For K-9

Children learn the story of how this clever West African and West Indian hero brings the stories back to the people from Nyame the Greedy Sky God. They also learn about Anansi/Anansy and the transformation of folktales from country to country. Before they act out the various animals of the jungle in this delightful comedic folktale, children learn to tell a story in dramatic form and how to use some African musical instruments.

2. Trickster Coyote (Plains Indian Legend) For K-9

This is another story of an animal hero saving the people. This time it is by bringing fire. The children use authentic costumes and music as they learn about the Plains Indian beliefs and how to make a dramatic story about one of them. The children and Leslie Elias use masks, costumes, and drums to enhance the performance.

3. The Myth of Persephone (Greek Myth) For K-9

This workshop explores the fascinating world of ancient Greek mythology with arresting Greek masks made by Robert Flanagan, a mask designer for the Muppets. Children learn about myth, Greek drama and theater, the use of masks in the role of the Greek chorus, and a variety of dramatic roles including Cerberus­–the three-headed dog­–­the creatures of Hades, Apollo's muses, and many other fascinating characters. ­

4. Exploration of Creative EXPRESSION for K-9

Leslie Elias, playwright, actress and theater director, will lead students on an exciting journey through the use of masks, myth, puppets, music and movement. The objective is to fully enjoy and explore various forms of creative expression, both individually and with a group. Through theater games and exercises, children will learn to overcome awkward inhibitions and gain confidence in the joy of performing. Exposure to different cultures will awaken student's interest and curiosity about places and people beyond their home.

5. Journey of Transformations: Poetry & Drama in the Classroom For grades 3-12

Leslie Elias, playwright, actress and theater director, will work with students of all ages, helping them to transform their ideas, images and poems into dramatic form using masks, music and dance. A variety of poetic forms will be explored including haiku, limericks, nursery rhymes, ballads, prose poems and chants. Through improvisation and dramatic play, the group will explore the process of transforming the written word into theater. The group will dramatize original work as well as draw from existing literature. A more intensive in-depth residency of poetry and drama is available.

6. Grandmother Turtle: An Iroquois Tale For grades 2-9

In this 2 to 2 1/2 hour workshop, storyteller Leslie Elias tells the Iroquois creation myth, a story of sky people and water animals and how the earth came to rest on Grandmother Turtle's back. Children then have the opportunity to act out the story using the costumes and masks of the Grumbling Gryphons. Following the workshop a group of up to 30 children are ready to perform the play for their fellow classmates or the entire school.

7. Peter & the Wolf: A Musical Journey For K-9

This is a wonderful opportunity for music teachers to teach classical music and listening skills through theater. In her delightful adaptation of the Russian folk tale with music by Prokofiev, Leslie Elias works with the children to perform the story, using costumes and masks created for the Grumbling Gryphons in the summer of 1992. The music can be on tape or, for an additional fee, provided by a keyboard player.

8. St. George & the Dragon: A Medieval Comedy
For grades 3-8

In a 2 to 2½ hour workshop, children are introduced to the traditional mummers' tale of St. George & the Dragon. In this amusing version, children have the chance to act out the parts of the ferocious dragon, brave St. George, the King and his daughter, townspeople and the hilarious Doctor, with music, masks and magic. This workshop can be part of an entire Medieval residency where other classes present additional medieval classics, such as Robin Hood and Chaucer's Chanticleer.

9. SNOW QUEEN RESIDENCY For grades K-8

This famous fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson is brought to life through the use of original music, magical masks, costumes and scenery. Actors lead workshops, which develop students' participation in the culminating show through drama exercises, improvisation, enacting fairy tales, singing and chanting. Whether a goblin, a snowstorm, a flower or an owl in the forest, students learn firsthand about the fun and creativity involved in becoming part of a theatrical production.

solo residencies & workshops

by Leslie Elias, Artistic Director, tailored to suit the needs of your school’s curriculum, are available upon request.