So you want to be a Gangnam Styling Unicorn. Or, writing theatre for kids

Scripts. Image by Paul M May

Hi everyone,

Well, it happened again. Last week I found myself at my computer with four scripts to write for the classes I teach. Last time this happened, I wrote the most brilliant musical parody which involved every prominent musical theatre character in a story of triumph and irony and pathos. It was supposed to be six minutes and it went for fifteen and the piano we were using was missing five keys and Middle C got stuck every time Claudia the fifteen year old accompanist played it. BUT THE STORY WAS BRILLIANT. The kids loved it and the parents laughed and I felt I had contributed to humanity.

Then I took a break. A prodigious effort like that requires a subsequent period of rest and reflection. But I quickly realised I had no money so I rang up all the acting schools and got myself not one, but four classes. The plan was very simple: I’ll write another masterpiece. FOUR MASTERPIECES! And all of them will be more brilliant than the previous one and the children will call me Beethoven.

Needless to say it didn’t quite turn out like that. Unfortunately I left all the masterpiece writing until the same week. So I had to write a new script every day for four days in a row. Usually I do my best work in crisis situations, but when you’re trying to write a show about sixteen superheroes with sixteen alter egos and they must all have equal parts because we live in a democracy and no-one is allowed to be better than anyone else, even though one child is like Geoffrey Rush and another spends the whole class trying to impale himself on the piano, it can get rather tricky.

It’s probably my own fault. After all, I l allowed the kids to dream up their insane characters. You want to be Cupcake Woman? Sure. What is her power? She shoots cupcakes out of her arse. Fine. Why not. What about you? You’re a Gangnam styling unicorn? No, I hate that song. But he’s from Korea, so why don’t we just make you a Communist unicorn? He’s probably not from the North but for the sake of your education it’s much better. And what about you? You’re Death? Right. And what does Death do? He kills people. You don’t say. The only thing is, Superheroes are supposed to save peoples lives, not – OK. Don’t get upset Alistair. Fine, you can be Death. But don’t tell your mother.

And so it goes. I need to learn to give the kids more parameters. The problem with these wild and wonderful stories is that they’re impossible to finish. I decided to base the Superheroes show around the recent Frankenstorm, but by the time I got to the last scene I was so mentally exhausted and confused by the seven thousand characters that I just killed them off and ended with a moral. “This is why we should all be vegan and remember to recycle.” It won’t be winning any coveted literary awards, but at the end of the day everyone’s had fun and I’ve been paid and that’s what really matters.

In other news, I’m going to Paris next year to study at Gaulier. Hooray! It’ll be for a few months and hopefully at the end of it I’ll have a better idea of how to devise my own work. One big thing that has come out of working with kids is how much I love creating new material, but I feel like it’s time to commit to my own development and enhance my skills as a story-teller. But if it doesn’t work out, I’ve always got the Stalinist ponies and muffin-wielding maniacs to fall back on. And if that’s not a comforting thought, I don’t know what is.

Kate Walder

Kate is a 2008 graduate of the BA Music Theatre course from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA). During her time at the academy she played the role of Linda in Blood Brothers, The Young Wife in Hello Again, Marguerita in West Side Story and featured in the ensemble of Sweeney Todd and Oklahoma!, for which she was Dance Captain. After moving to London in 2009 Kate played the role of Clio in La Dispute at the Soho Theatre and subsequently at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Since returning to Sydney, Kate has written and performed her one-woman show Coffee with Kate: the Cabaret at the 2010 inaugural Sydney Fringe Festival, a show based on a series of weekly columns she wrote for She is currently co-writing a new show with a fellow WAAPA graduate which will premiere later in the year.

Kate Walder

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