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A World Premiere Kennedy Center Commission



of Ikarus Jackson Adapted by Jerome Hairston from the book Wings by Christopher Myers Directed and choreographed by Devanand Janki

Performances for Young Audiences is made possible by

is ordinary kid—and th o n is n so ck Ja s ru ka rdinary play. It tells o o n is ce an rm fo er p wings not only with h it w oy b a f o ry o st the but also through es m u st co d an rs to ac music and dance. ? Are you ready to soar

Getting Ready to Fly with


What Happens in the Play t’s just another day at school in a big, busy city. Until, that is, a new kid comes to class. His name is Ikarus (pronounced IK-uh-rus) Jackson and he looks a lot different from everyone else. He’s got unusual hair and shoes, and what’s with that big backpack he can’t seem to control? The other kids make fun of him—except for Cris. She’s so shy that often


other people don’t even notice her. But she sees something special in Ikarus and tries to befriend him. When the class bullies pick on Cris and challenge Ikarus to a basketball game, they all learn that Ikarus has wings. After they tease and taunt him, he flies away, once again feeling like he will never belong. Cris runs after him, realizing she has something important she needs to say.

Conflicts Arise Ikarus wants to fit in—but the bullies at school don’t want to accept him. These characters want different things, and that creates suspense in the story. That is called dramatic conflict. Characters also can have conflicts within themselves. Ikarus tries to reject part of himself, his wings. And Cris hates being “invisible,” but she is too shy to speak up. How all these conflicts are resolved is an important part of theatrical storytelling.

Action! The story features lots of sports and action, including hopscotch, running, jump rope, basketball, and playful boxing, as well as a dramatic chase through a city. And, of course, flying. Watch for how music and movement bring these moments to life.

A Collage of Ide as Ta

ke another look at these illustrations. Se e how they look like cutouts from different types of paper and ev en photographs? This style of illus trating is called collage. During the performance , look for ways th at the backdrop s and cityscape m atch this style.


WINGS of Ikarus Jackson By the Book The performance of The Wings of Ikarus Jackson was inspired by the book Wings, written and illustrated by Christopher Myers (whose illustrations for the book appear throughout this Cuesheet). If you are familiar with the book, you’ll recognize the story, but you’ll also notice that it has been expanded to be told on stage. And if you don’t know the book, don’t worry, because the performance tells you everything you need to know.

Mythic Proportions Ikarus is not the first boy with magical white wings. The people of ancient Greece had a myth (stories with fantastical beings and often hard lessons) about a boy also named Icarus (spelled with a “c”). In the myth, Icarus’s father created wings made of feathers and wax so father and son could escape imprisonment. As they soared to freedom, Icarus failed to heed his father’s warning about flying too close to the sun. The sun’s heat melted the wax holding his wings together, and he fell into the sea. After the performance, discuss with friends or family the similarities and differences between the performance and the myth.

What’s the Big Idea? The play explores some big ideas, or themes. They include being your true self (even if it includes a pair of wings!), accepting and appreciating differences among people, and overcoming fears. During the performance, watch for these themes. Think about: What are your “wings”? What makes you unique? After the performance, discuss your ideas with friends or family.


Storytelling Through WORD

Soaring from Page to Stage

ow do you create a play from a book? Step one: Imagine the book’s characters and story on stage—and how the action will unfold and what the characters will say. For The Wings of Ikrarus Jackson, that (fun!) job belonged to playwright Jerome Hairston. He also knew that movement would be telling parts of the story. That meant he had to construct a performance that could switch smoothly from words to movement and back again. Here are some of the playwright’s challenges and the decisions he made. What would you do if you were the playwright? Show how uncomfortable Ikarus feels about his wings. One solution: Have Ikarus try to hide them. Make the unnamed girl in the book more real to the audience. One solution: Give her a name—Cris. Show more of Cris’s personality. One solution: Give her a favorite book, Peter Pan. The playwright could have chosen any book— why do you think he chose that one? Set up the conflict between Ikarus and the school bullies and tell it through movement. One solution: Turn the basketball game into a competition with serious consequences. During the performance, watch how the storytelling shifts from dialogue to sound and movement.

Move It When you hear “dance,” you might think of one kind, like ballet or hip-hop. But a dance performance can blend many different styles. Devanand Janki, the choreographer (person who creates dance) for The Wings of Ikarus Jackson, believed all kinds of movements could help tell this story. Here are some types you might see: Ballet—usually flowing, light movements and jumps, lifted and extended legs, and graceful arms


Modern—grounded (and sometimes heavy) movements, plus motion using the entire body from head to toe Jazz—vigorous, rhythmic movements often with isolated motions for the head, neck, shoulders, torso, arms, and hips Hip-Hop—urban-style street dancing, often featuring break dancing–inspired moves and angular moves of the arms and legs Latin—fast-paced dancing, often with quick footwork and big hip movements

RDS, MOVEMENT, and MUSIC Say It Without Words In the performance, dance and movements have a purpose in telling the story. After the performance, recall three dance/movement sequences, and decide whether the movements… share ideas or feelings the characters would have a hard time saying with words describe the place explain what is happening portray action (like sports) something else

(write your idea here)

Bring on the Music

Acrobatic—more sports-oriented movements like tumbling and jumping Slow Motion—exaggerated and unusually slow movements of any kind to create a sense of drama, change, or fantasy Mime—movement and gestures using body, hands, and face to show feelings, things, environments, and experiences

Music plays an important role in storytelling, too. For the movement sequences, music helps set the scene and complement the type of dancing. For example, soaring music might accompany ballet movements or flying. Musical sound effects also clue you in to the place and type of action. What kind of sound effects would you use for a basketball game or a chase through a busy city? During the performance, listen for the sound effects the composer (person who writes music) uses.


Creating the World of

IKARUS JACKSON t takes a whole team of creative people— the director (person overseeing the whole production), playwright, choreographer, composer, actors, set designer, costume designer, and lighting designer—collaborating (working together) to bring the world of Ikarus Jackson to life. Here’s a little more about the challenges they had to solve to create this performance.

We Believe He Can Fly The magic of theater is that anything can happen on stage—even a kid flying. But to make that work takes some imagination and skill. Here are some of the tools the production team might use: Movement—such as graceful or flowing moves Lighting—such as spotlights, shadows, and strobe (pulsating) lights Projections—images presented on screens

Double Duties A theater and movement piece like The Wings of Ikarus Jackson requires performers with multiple talents. All of the actors act and dance. The cast of six also performs a story with many characters (parents, neighbors, crossing guards, police officers, and more), so some of the cast play multiple roles. And as if that’s not enough, two of the performers use their puppetry skills. At times, the actor playing Ikarus moves his wings to bring them to life much as a puppeteer would. Another actor uses a puppet to portray a pigeon.

Set Design—like different levels, platforms, and backdrops Sound—both music (like rising and falling sounds) and sound effects How would you show Ikarus flying? Before the performance, jot down your ideas or discuss them with a friend. Afterward, compare your ideas with what you saw on stage. What impressed you the most? Why?

Design Challenge: Wings Pretend you are the costume designer. The director asks you to create a pair of wings for an actor to wear. And those wings must: fit inside a backpack easily expand once out of the backpack be durable be easy to move, but not flap around by themselves look like the wings from the book So, what might you use to create wings for Ikarus? Draw or write down your ideas.



Set It Up

A Moving Portrait Think about what you learn about people just by watching them move. A skip might mean a person is happy. Wide eyes (remember, faces move, too) could mean surprise or fear. Try portraying the types of people below using just body movement, posture, and facial expressions (no words). See if others can tell whether you are:

The set, or the scenery you see on stage, gives a sense of place. For this performance, the set designer also created a set with different levels to give more ways to show movement. The set designer also wanted to create a “place” that matched the collage and layered quality of the illustrations from the book. Above is the designer’s first rough model (to which she added more details as the production developed). But why don’t you try it? Draw in what you would add to the set (color, art, structure, objects, and so forth) to create an urban setting for the play. During the performance, compare your ideas with the set designer’s decisions.

an elderly person an extremely shy student a bully After the performance, compare your ideas with how the actors portrayed these types of people.


Some WINGS Tips Watch for... how the performers use both words and movement to help you understand their characters’ personalities and feelings how costumes help the actors quickly become different characters (and be on the lookout for some repeat costume pieces!) how Ikarus and the pigeon (puppet) interact, mostly without words

Listen for... Natural sounds of the city, like buses, people, and games, and how these blend into the music Specific instruments or styles of music that go with different characters

Before the performance... read this Cuesheet

David M. Rubenstein Chairman Michael M. Kaiser President

finish talking so you can stay quiet during the performance

Darrell M. Ayers Vice President, Education

rev up your imagination so you can enjoy the world of The Wings of Ikarus Jackson

Additional support for Performances for Young Audiences is provided by the President's Advisory Committee on the Arts, Capital One Bank, the Carter and Melissa Cafritz Charitable Trust, The Clark Charitable Foundation, Fight for Children, Inc., Mr. James V. Kimsey, The Kirstein Family Foundation, The Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, Inc., Linda and Tobia Mercuro, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, Park Foundation, Inc., the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, Mrs. Irene Pollin, Dr. Deborah Rose and Dr. Jan A. J. Stolwijk, The Theodore H. Barth Foundation, Inc., the U.S. Department of Education, and the Verizon Foundation.

After the performance... clap if you enjoyed the performance get inspired to experience other ways of storytelling on stage, including musicals, operas, dance, music, and plays

Major support for the Kennedy Center’s educational programs is provided by David and Alice Rubenstein through the Rubenstein Arts Access Program. Illustrations from Wings © 2000 by Christopher Myers used by arrangement with Scholastic Inc.

Be a Playwright, Choreographer, and Composer Choose a scene or moment from a favorite story or book. Plan how you would tell it on stage using only dialogue, only movement, or only music or sound effects. (Try to imagine it at least two different ways). Have several friends help you perform the scene. Which method of storytelling did you like best? Why?


Cuesheets are produced by ARTSEDGE, an education program of the Kennedy Center. ARTSEDGE is a part of Verizon Thinkfinity, a consortium of free educational Web sites for K-12 teaching and learning. Learn more about Education at the Kennedy Center at The contents of this Cuesheet do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. © 2012 The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

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The Wings of Ikarus Jackson  

There is something puzzling about the new boy at school. You see, Ikarus Jackson is no ordinary kid—and this performance is no ordinary play...

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