Book: Martina the Beautiful Cockroach by Carmen Agra Deedy, Illustrated by Michael Austin (other versions also available)
Props: Ears or similar for: Dog, Cat, Frog, Mouse, Cockroach (all but Mouse and Cockroach can be other animals instead)
Audience: Family Storytime
Since we often do team storytelling at our Library, I get to try stories that others have been doing for a while, but are new to me. I knew the story of Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, but had never actually read or performed it for kids. It's a favorite of Sheila's, though, and she suggested we do an act-out version for an outdoor performance at our local Wilsonville Arts Festival. There's singing involved, which is not my favorite thing, but it's supposed to be bad singing and that I can do. The version we did, developed by Sheila and Terri over the years, features Sheila as the beautiful bug. She wears some antennae and some frilly stuff and voila: a cockroach.
In the Deedy book version, Martina tests each of her suitors by spilling coffee on them and watching their response. We adapted this, going with a more direct approach for younger audiences: She asks each suitor to sing, and when they sing badly, she rejects them. So I enter as Senor Perro, with dog ears of some sort, and of course am instantly smitten by her cockroachian beauty. (I'm never sure if kids get the absurdity of a cockroach being so popular with all the guys, but I sure think it's funny). When she asks me to sing ,I do a badly out of tune version of "Twinkle Twinkle," substituting "woofs" for all the words. That's simple enough for the kids to catch on quickly and join in. When Martina expresses her displeasure, I leave sadly, then reappear as Senor Gato, then Senor Rana. Same tune, different words ("meow" and "croak"), same result.
Then Senor Raton appears and shows us all how to win the heart of a cockroach. He sings "La Cucaracha," in a not-so-bad voice (okay, it's still pretty bad, but it's as good as I can do and it's way better than those other animals at least), and Senorita Martina accepts his marriage proposal. It's a fun and simple story, and quite easy to learn. We actually did this one with no rehearsal because we've been so busy with other stuff (a little thing called "Summer Reading Program"), so the simplicity of the story was just right. But within that simple structure there's lots for room for playfulness and silliness as the characters interact. Giving a guitar to the male suitors is a nice touch which Terri and Sheila use when they do the story, but it seems to work fine without that as well (because that's another skill I lack).
Having done it this way, I'm definitely considering it for a one-person puppet show in the future (maybe an excuse to buy that cool Folkmanis cockroach puppet that I think is discontinued but must still be available somewhere...)_