'Tortoise and Hare' Tells a Familiar Tale

Often times, Black Texas brings news about the arts — particularly in Austin — with the hopes of encouraging our readers to go see a show, but we’ve often overlooked the various barriers of entry to the world of theatre for people of color, particularly with exposing children to the world of theatre. In Austin, ZACH Theatre has worked diligently to bring top tier theatre to the city, and right now they have an amazing show that can serve as the perfect entry point for getting the next generation introduced to theatre.

In a tale of relatable culture clash, the ancient versus the modern, Tortoise and Hare tells the story of two tribes struggling to come to a compromise on who gets to use the much needed land as populations change and resources become strained. In this new and creative take on Aesop’s classic fable, ZACH Theatre’s creative team — notably, director Nat Miller, music director Allen Robertson and choreographer Sara Burke — has created a wonderful production that entertains kids and adults alike.

 The cast of Tortoise and Hare. Photos by Kirk Tuck

The cast of Tortoise and Hare. Photos by Kirk Tuck

This production can serve as a great opportunity to introduce children and curious adults to theatre for multiple reasons. For starters, Tortoise and Hare is presented on ZACH’s Kleberg stage — a black-box performance space. This is means that the show is in a much smaller,closer space creating a more intimate experience, as opposed to the vast space and fancifulness of larger stages. This means kids can get a much closer look at the magic taking place in front of them and really see people up close. That said, the show itself is well worth checking out.

Robertson’s musical styling is entertaining from beginning to end, mixing in some catchy phrases that kids can sing for days as well as more lyrically complex verses that are understandable and impressive, even for adults. Pair that with the creative choreography Burke brings to the table, and you’ve got an engaging experience for kids, with clear contrasts between the styles of the tortoise society and the quickly growing population of hare. Jaimee Garner creates a visible contrast between the two through their clothes, with tortoises have a more natural, earthy vibe using culturally significant patterns and fabrics and hare having much more tailored attired.

 Leslie Ann Leal as Kama and Austin Hyde as Jackson in ZACH Theatre’s ‘Tortoise and Hare.’ Photo by Kirk Tuck

Leslie Ann Leal as Kama and Austin Hyde as Jackson in ZACH Theatre’s ‘Tortoise and Hare.’ Photo by Kirk Tuck

Inside the outfits, the cast of Tortoise and Hare does a fantastic job of bringing the work to life. Leslie Ann Leal does a great job as Kama, the leader of the tortoise tribe, along with Michael Wheeler as her injured brother, Simon. Together, these two give audiences a great familial dynamic and solid performances. Megan Hudson does great as the leading lady on the hare’s side as Harper, bringing an upbeat energy to the show. Austin Hyde steals the show, however, as the fast-talking highly animated leader of the hare, Jackson. His dynamic performance is entertaining to kids and adults, and he gives a solid effort as the charming antagonist.

All of these aspects come together to help support the two most important reasons to go see Tortoise and Hare at ZACH Theatre: it’s affordable and it’s running for the rest of the year. With tickets priced at $18 for kids and $24 for adults, this production easily clears one of the leading barriers to entry — the cost. This small investment could pay off in a big way by inspiring the next generation to seek careers in the arts, and that’s a victory for everyone. And with Tortoise and Hare running all the way to January 27, 2019, there’s no reason not to go see this show with the entire family, even as a great early holiday gift. Tickets for Tortoise and Hare are available online at zachtheatre.org, by phone at 512-476-0541, or in person at the ZACH Theatre Box Office, in the Topfer Theatre.

Nick Bailey is a forward thinking journalist with a well-rounded skill set including writing, design, and photography. Nick now resides in Austin, TX after earning a degree in Mass Communication with an emphasis on journalism from Texas A&M University—Commerce.