Griffin’s Tale brings children’s imaginations to life


Photo courtesy of Kandace Mack

The Griffin’s Tale team rehearsing last year for the 2020 Zipcar “Students with Drive” competition. The group adapts children’s works into performances.

Kara Peeler, Assistant Copy Chief

Griffin’s Tale Children’s Theatre Repertory Company at Northwestern only performs work written by children.

Founded in 1990, Griffin’s Tale empowers children to become creative and pursue writing. The group accepts submissions from nearby elementary schools and adapts them into skits, sketches, songs, raps, dances and more. It creates unconventional stories like “Green Paper Pantsuit,” in which a character wears an outfit that is mistaken for money and then reveals themself as a secret FBI agent.

Communication senior and Co-Senior Director Justin Kuhn said the group performs work that is “by kids, for kids.” The group tries to stray as little as possible from the original writing to honor children’s work.

Griffin’s Tale receives hundreds of submissions per school, Kuhn said, but it can only perform and adapt eight to 10 pieces at each show. The schools only cover transportation costs.

“It just gives (the kids) a sense that the things that you say and the things that you do matter, and it motivates them to be creative,” Communication junior and Co-Junior Director Nena Martins said.

Griffin’s Tale puts on 16 performances each academic year: a show on campus Fall Quarter, 14 shows in Spring Quarter during its elementary school tour and the Jones Show at NU during Reading Period in Spring Quarter, which highlights some of the year’s best stories.

The group strives for inclusivity and representation. Communication junior and Co-Junior Director Maddie Hughes said they are including ASL in a story about a Deaf character and performing in Spanish in some predominantly Spanish-speaking schools.

“A huge part … is to make sure that kids see themselves on stage,” Hughes said. “We are learning how we can make this as accessible as possible. How can we continue to expand the groups that we represent on stage and make sure that every child can see themselves?”

Many works, such as “The Little Potato” or “Hi I’m Yosser and I do Dance!” are characterized by silliness and plentiful plot twists, Kuhn and Martins said.

However, the children have also written more serious pieces. Kuhn said they have received submissions about the Black Lives Matter Movement and COVID-19.

“I have learned that kids are the smartest beings on the planet and the most honest and the most sincere,” Communication senior and Co-Senior Director Kandace Mack said.

Griffin’s Tale hasn’t performed in person at an elementary school since 2019, but Kuhn said the students “have been waiting for us to return.” The group adapted to a virtual format last year, but Kuhn said it has already received confirmation from all 14 elementary schools for in-person performances this spring, with COVID-19 safety guidelines in place.

The team is typically composed of 25 ensemble members, and Kuhn said they “want to see that inner child come out.” Mack described the group’s environment as collaborative and tight-knit.

“My biggest hope for the future is that it continues at Northwestern and that it continues to expand,” Kuhn said. “We want to be able to support and empower as many kids as possible.”

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