Dallas Puppet Theater's Rumplestiltskin Is Cool, Comical Escape

At the beginning of the summer, I made a meticulous schedule of activities to get Baby out of the house and expose her to a bit of culture. After all, summer is the time where all manner of cultural activities move outside and encourage kids to explore, play and learn.

And then I watched, day by day, as symphony concerts in local parks got scratched off my list because it was still 100 degrees at 7 p.m. and zoo outings were postponed because the asphalt in the parking lots was literally too melty to push the stroller through. Even indoor activities that wouldn't normally be a question spurred debates of whether it was worth it to strap Baby into a car seat and make her sweat it out as the car fought to push air conditioning to the outer limits of the back seat.

People told me to take her to water parks, but since I'm not a fan of diarrhea, we opted to buy a bunch of books, crank WRR, and stay in the house for the most part.

I haven't given up on finding ways to entertain and stimulate Baby's growing noggin, despite the challenging temperatures, and when my husband noticed that the Dallas Puppet Theater was performing the fairy tale Rumpelstiltskin last weekend, we jumped at the chance to have a little family fun outside our own four walls.

We weren't the only ones with that idea, as more than a dozen other families showed up to catch the production.

The kids were universally enthralled, and even Baby (who was by far the youngest audience member) couldn't take her eyes off the colorful hand puppets. The puppeteer, Pix Smith, kept the dialogue simple and sing-songy, evoking laughs from one-year-old Baby and the rest of the auditorium.

While Baby couldn't care less about the storyline at this point in her development, the older kids in the audience cheered the age-old story of a kind-hearted miller who tells a wicked king that his daughter can spin straw into gold in order to save himself from the king's wrath. The daughter makes a deal with a rotten little sprite named Rumpelstiltskin, who helps her to produce the gold for a price to be decided later. Rumpelstiltskin is played for laughs by a spirited green puppet that really got the kids attention.

Smith glossed over the more sinister parts of the fairy tale, which is probably best--that Rumpelstiltskin is a scary little guy--emphasizing motion and physical comedy. I was impressed (and surprised) that the show held the attention of all of the young audience for the nearly 30 minutes it took to tell the story.

After everyone lived happily ever after, Smith took about 15 minutes to give the audience a behind-the-scenes look at the puppets and his set, even explaining in detail how he sets up the area beneath the stage during the production. This is where Baby lost interest, but in a few years she'll be super stoked to get a close-up view of the puppets. The five-year-olds in the audience were thrilled that Smith was sharing the tricks of the trade and letting them come up on stage to meet the stars of the show.

The Dallas Puppet Theater's Rumpelstiltskin was a lively and fun performance that will appeal to older infants, toddlers, young children and their parents. It runs again this weekend in the cool confines of the AT&T Auditorium at the Women's Museum in Fair Park, 3800 Parry Ave. Showtimes are Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Admission is $5 (bring cash), and reservations may be made at puppetry.org.

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