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An adventure that included pranks and friendship, gunshots and chases, as well as a BIG ride through the air!

This year’s Day of Restoration of Independence was especially adventurous for 200 participants from Estonia’s substitute homes and safe houses as they watched the engaging family-friendly play “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and later tried out a ride through the air on the park’s 300-metre route.

A good friend is cool and can be as full of pranks as he likes!

Some of the children had never heard of the characters from this adventure story nor read the book. Thus, before coming to the play, the main characters of the story were introduced in the families and it was also explained that the events took place more than a hundred years ago. The children were excited, knowing beforehand that Tom was quite a character who did not like to go to school and who found trouble and adventure everywhere he went.

Good weather had lured many people to come and see the play, and the anticipation could be felt in the air. It was exciting for the children that the play was in nature and the actors ran around everywhere. When sitting down, Martin asked: “Is this where the play will take place?” The children learned that theatre does not necessarily have to happen on stage and inside, but is even more interesting as a play in the wild. The adventure started off promisingly when Indian Joe soared over the heads of the audience at the beginning of the play. The location of the play was spot on and the play of the actors charmed the audience from the moment they first appeared. The actors were almost within arm’s reach for those sitting in the first few rows and every emotion reached them very powerfully: adventure, friendship, love, the battle between good and evil, lying, fear, and the happy ending...

Gunshots and kissing created lots of excitement. One of the smallest members of the family kept hiding behind the teacher during the second act, but then laughed again wholeheartedly. The smaller children said that Indian Joe was a bit scary and his voice was horrible. The girls most liked beautiful Becky and her cute locks. Tom and Huck were also the favourites of many. Mothers loved Aunt Polly, played by Anne Veesaar, the most.

The most moving part of the story was the emphasis on friendship. This was also strongly reflected in the play: “I feel sad for Finn, but at least he had Tom as a friend,” one child thought. Important subjects were even more spiritedly brought forward by beautiful songs which brought tears to many spectators: they were so moved by this good old story of friendship, first love, adventure, and bravery. Although the book about Tom Sawyer was written about a century and a half ago and talks about life in America, it also speaks to today’s children. The final song stuck in the heads of audience members for a long time and from the play this thought remained: a good friend is cool and can be as full of pranks as he likes!

Adventure park is a perfect place for an adventurous play!

It was very engaging when Tom and Finn played pirates. Liza perked up when they danced with brooms. Every child found their own joy of recognition from the weird adventures seen in the play. Many were excited that they recognised some actors. Some knew Karol Kuntsel from the Buratino TV show, one girl knew Anne Veesaar, and some recognised Silver Kaljula from the TV series “Kättemaksukontor”.

Even those children who do not speak Estonian well were not bored. Russian-speaking girls (8- and 12-years-old) thought: “We had never read that book, but the teachers summarised its contents for us before the play. But it was really exciting to see that story for real. What we also liked was that the play was in Estonian because currently we are learning Estonian and trying to talk to others more in Estonian. It was unusual that the play was outside.”

The landscape added a lot of emotions to the stage. Before the play the children had waited with excitement, which actor and from where they will be entering the stage. But it was a big surprise that someone was hiding in a barrel! How did he fit in there? The cave was also an interesting solution and the echo effect evoked question: how is it done? The children found out that besides the actors, the sound technician is also important, managing both gunshots and music. The children thought that the play would not be as exciting and interesting in the theatre building as outside and that they could visit more summer events.

Youngsters with more severe disabilities were also interested in the play and despite its total length – two hours and ten minutes – their enthusiasm did not fade.

Some scenes were so real that they seemed to be true. The children asked whether the big knife was real – when they took a break, one of the adults in the group told the children to observe the man whom Indian Joe stabbed – the children initially thought he was dead because the actor laid on the ground for such a long time... The “spies” were greatly surprised (and relieved) when the stabbed man quietly got up and disappeared behind the bushes.

Most children thought that the place chosen for the play was ideal for such a fast paced and versatile play. The children cheered along with the play a lot, especially the boys. For them, the gunshots and wrestling were cool. No boring moments!

Andra: “Now I will not mix up the books!”

During the break, the children ate ice cream to fight the heat and their craving for sugar, and after the play had ended and the actors came to greet the children, the actors were surrounded by autograph seekers. The actors were closely surrounded, but there were also those who think that being close to famous people in Estonia is quite normal – one 12-year-old boy gave the following answer to why he did not want an autograph: “Phh, Estonian actors, they are everywhere!”

However, most children were anxious to meet them. The children’s eyes were beaming when they met the actors immediately, it was important for the children to get an autograph from them. The smaller ones excitedly showed that an actor had signed their autograph in the book as well. Andra said: “Now I will not mix up the books, because each book has a name inside.” Aleksandra was a bit worried, too, that her book is so thick that it would take her a very long time to read. The house-mother comforted the girl that sometimes the teacher reads the book out loud to everyone and this way reading goes faster...
Kenneth was at first shy when it came to asking for autographs, which he later overcame with great success.

Nele thought: “There were many scary and horrible men, but I also got one horrible man to sign my poster. Once, I jumped into my teacher’s lap because a black-haired man came towards me with a knife. The girls were pretty and had beautiful dresses; Tom’s girlfriend was so cute. When I grow up, I want to read this book. I want a brother like Tom.”

But why do you think that I am afraid!

After the show and refreshments, the children were able to enjoy a 300-metre ride through the air in the adventure park, and they thought it was very cool. Even the girls were thrilled. One girl said that she had not ridden before: “But why do you think that I am afraid – I am not, I will just go and ride!” Even the smallest ones did not stay watching, but wanted to try it out. The brave ones liked it very much and they got several rides. Some children took a long time to gather themselves for the ride, but were especially happy after conquering their fear. Many of the children wanted a photo taken of them flying high above the ground.

Some of the chaperones also joined in the ride through the air, and one teacher conceded that with age adults also gain some fears, but it was again positive that the fear must be suppressed and one must be equal with 13- and 15-year-olds – which is also what the chaperones were on this wonderful Day of Restoration of Independence, she admitted contentedly.

Thank you, teachers, for getting me away from the computer!

The children had many questions after the play. Why did Huck live in a barrel? Why did not he have a home? Why are some people (Indian Joe) evil? Once at home, the theatre visitors engaged in a lively exchange of their impressions with those who had remained at home.

This trip brought both the children and their chaperones lots of discoveries, joy, and mutual learning. An engaging and exciting story revealed how attentive children are and how they understand things quickly. The children did not get tired at the end of the act, either, because it was exciting. On the way home and at home they talked a lot about friendship and what it means. One 14-year-old boy said that if you see your friend in trouble, then you do those things that you would otherwise be very afraid of doing. This play was also a small reminder about the meaning of friendship for adults.

The importance of shared theatre visits and other events is very well illustrated by a quote from a 10-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome, who recently came to live in a family home and whose world revolves around technology and whose fingers are glued to the keyboard: “Thank you, teachers, for getting me away from the computer.” It appeared that this choice of theatrical experience was also exciting for those boys who usually do not care about theatre.

Each family received a copy of the book “Tom Sawyer” from the fund, to later help refresh their memories and tell the others how Tom and Becky got lost in a cave, what happened to horrible Indian Joe, and who Huck Finn is. All the children promised to read through the book, even if it takes them until Christmas.

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