A cheeky raven, a cherry tree, a pair of garden tools, an oversize colored die, and Peter Markhoff as the gardener – nothing more is needed to captivate around 160 preschoolers for an hour in the Thuringian town of Sonneberg. It’s no accident if fans of family games found these ingredients familiar: Theater Mär has staged the HABA game “Little Orchard” as a play-along game. And when mom, dad, and siblings get angry and Raven Theo snitches the most delicious cherries, the preschool children energetically help so that the black bird doesn’t have a chance.
The children have the right touch in the Sonneberg neighborhood center “Wolke 14” (“Cloud 14”): Theo was in front for a long time, but in the end, he can only pick eight cherries, the gardener and children have, on the other hand, twelve of the delicious summer fruit. The little ones listen attentively when the raven answers with his distinctive “Caw, caw.” The animal even has to listen to “You bad raven.” But he also receives some sympathy in the end: “We can give the raven some cherries after all,” a child suggests.
Sabrina Beetz, head of HABA Marketing, had the idea, to engage Theater Mär as part of the anniversary action “80 good deeds” and to invite preschools in the region to the performances. “To stage our beloved HABA Little Orchard is fantastic in itself. Add to that the fact that the children are involved and that they are not playing against each other like with the family game but together against the raven. This cooperative element makes the performance especially exciting for the little visitors,” she explains.
“We can give the raven some cherries after all”
Around 50 times a year, the actors from “Theater Mär” are on and in front of the stage with “Little Orchard”: “Sometimes even the raven wins, unlike today in Sonneberg. I can influence the result only a little. We’re simply really playing with each other” says theater head and actor Peter Markhoff. That makes the fun special. Every performance turns out differently. “We have to be very spontaneous. There’s no routine. And that’s what makes the thing so lively,” he feels.
The idea of staging the HABA game “Little Orchard” came from Markhoff’s daughter. When transforming the game, the theater-makers paid particular attention to a lot of interactivity as well as pedagogical elements, along with all the playing fun. So the little visitors will now surely recognize and be able to name the colors yellow, red, green, and blue. And of course in between, there’s a lot of counting about who is ahead in the cherry harvest.
The caterpillar Harry, by the way, turns to be a “silver bullet” against loudness and fidgety preschoolers. Harry resides in the gardener’s pants pocket and has good advice on hand. When Harry pipes up, everyone pricks up their ears. On the other hand, it gets noisy and animated during voting: Anyone present who thinks just of raising their hand experiences that you can also extend your legs in the air and hum loudly to make you wishes known.