We had a moment to chat with past Artistic Director of Cow Over Moon and director of our current production Beauty and the Beast, Katherine Sanders, to get her thoughts on the company after 20 years, her experience working with the company and how theatre for young people has changed over the years.
Children’s theatre has become much more sophisticated over the years. I think people are starting to recognize that children are actually a very discerning audience and that creating theatre specifically for them is just as hard, if not harder, than creating theatre for adults. There is some very high quality work being done for children, and people expect more when they bring their children to the theatre than perhaps they used to.
I think what makes Cow Over Moon stand out is the rigour which goes into the creation of its shows. There are other companies who use improvisation and audience participation, but in my time with the company, I have tried to make sure that these elements of the show are handled very deliberately and carefully. It can be very daunting for a young person to put their hand up and offer an idea to the show, and we want to make sure that our audience feels like the theatre is a space place where they can try out their ideas without fear of judgement or being laughed at. That’s one thing.
I also think that we as theatre makers have to remember how we felt as children, and create shows with that mindset. Children can’t be categorized as one group of people who all think and feel the same way. Every child is a unique individual. I think Cow Over Moon has always been very good at bringing their own unique perspectives to the shows we create, which is the best way of making sure that our work encompasses a wide range of human experience.
My favorite thing about the people I’ve been able to work with is that we’re all there to have fun and to explore ideas together. No-one agrees to work on a Cow Over Moon show for selfish or egotistical reasons. They do it because they want to play and create something original with a group of like-minded people. And so we always have a tremendous amount of fun and discovery when we’re making a show. I don’t like to divide people up by their role on a production. I like everyone to feel that they can contribute to any part of the process. So we get actors with sound ideas, lighting designers contributing to the story, writers helping to direct. This can be tricky because you don’t want to feel like people are stepping on each other’s toes. But I think that creating the right environment in the room allows everyone to feel that they will be heard and respected. We treat each other with respect and our audience with respect, and I think that ultimately shines through in our productions.