Home > Uncategorized > Selera and the Temple of Zoom!

Selera and the Temple of Zoom!


Selera and the Temple of Zoom! is a children’s show presented by Burnaby Summer Theatre and has been touring various locations around the Lower Mainland as well as showing at the Burnaby Village Museum every Thursday since July.  The play is directed by Sean McQuillan, and features students from Studio 58’s Theatre Program. http://www.burnabyartscouncil.org/burnaby-summer-theatre/


The play tells the story of a girl, Selera, who must go in search of the antidote to cure her mother who has been poisoned by a Gorlinga spider. Her mother will turn into a spider herself unless Selera can return fast enough with the antidote. Luckily, Selera has a special skill- she can run faster than anything! And thus she sets out on an adventure to strange lands where she meets a few unsavoury characters that try to harm her as well as a couple who help her in her quest.


I went to see the play at the Burnaby Village Museum and it is staged outdoors on the Museum’s “Meadows”, a large grassy field next to the Village’s replica tram station. The station was a little wooden covered building and the audience sat on the building steps or the grass to view the performance. There wasn’t an actual stage as the actors performed right on the grass and there was nothing other than two black stools for props and a small painted backdrop. The set consisted of several painted tarps hung up on a standing rod. Actors went behind the tarp for costume changes.


One of the things that struck me most about this performance was the simplicity yet effectiveness of the set, props, and costumes.  I was immediately reminded of Valerie Farlette’s advice on keeping things simple but making sure to use bright, bold, colours so that characters really “pop” out to the eye.  Indeed, the costumes were uncomplicated but fantastic. Selera wore a bright pink dress, a yellow backpack and shiny high top sneakers. Her mother wore pink pajama pants with a bright plaid top and large plastic blue-rimmed eyeglasses. The animals, too, had creative but simple costumes: black-painted crutches and black tubing were used for the spider’s legs; a red construction helmet with glued-on eyes and red boxing gloves for Hermit Crab; Vulture was dressed completely in black with a feather boa, cape, and red paper mask and beak. The Princess wore a pink satin gown and tea cosy on her head, while the Troll wore a velour robe, batman mask and wig.  Even the narrator wore bold colour clothing that appeared costume-like rather than everyday clothes.

Selera and Mother



As mentioned, the set was also very simple-probably due to the nature that the show tours around the city and having few props means easy transport and set-up. The backdrops appeared to be large sheets of plastic tarp and were painted for the various places in Selera’s adventure including the forest, the desert, the Island of Gorlinga, and the Temple of Zoom. For scene changes, the narrator and another actor would just flip the tarps over to reveal the new location. I thought the set design was quite clever as it made scene changes very quick. This might be easily adapted to the school on a smaller scale with the chart paper stands that most classrooms have. If pushed together, the chart paper stands could be the backdrop with painted tarps or shower curtains that could be turned over or pulled back.

Stage and Set at Burnaby Village Museum


Since the show was developed for children, it was created with audience interaction in mind. The actors would, from time to time, ask the audience questions, react to their suggestions, and acknowledge their applause. (There was the typical chase scene in which the “bad” character asks, “Where did she go?”). The Princess also comes and sits amongst the audience in the grass and interjects the scene on “stage” at times and encourages the audience to cheer Selera when she’s losing faith and when she’s battling the Gorlinga Spider.  It’s really remarkable how much children love to become part of the show and how much fun it is for them to be involved.


It was difficult to find a play created specifically for an elementary audience during the summer, so I was very pleased to find out about Selera and the Temple of Zoom! And an added bonus was that it was free! During the school year, many local theatre companies create shows targeted for the primary audience and therefore have strong curricular connections. This play does not have any strong links to classroom curriculum, but it does touch on some universal themes.


The most obvious theme would be that of learning to overcome your fears (Selera is terribly afraid of spiders, but must confront the Galinga Spider to obtain the antidote). There’s also the theme of working together to accomplish a goal (Selera is aided by the Hermit Crab and the Princess and she also needs the audience to help her with confronting her fear). We might even draw connections to the theme of discovering your strength and using it to accomplish a goal (Selera can run faster than anything!). The play also touches lightly on the topic of bullying behavior; we find out at the end the troll is mean and tries to marry the princess only because he thinks he will then have friends.


Unfortunately, the play was quite short – only 30 minutes- and just touches on these issues, some rather superficially. It didn’t quite have enough material or time to explore them in-depth. It would, therefore, be beneficial to discuss these topics further in class after the performance, especially if these same themes were part of a Language Arts novel or Social Responsibility Unit.


A drama activity that we’ve learned in class and that might be suitable for a debriefing activity is the Conscience Alley.  Since the most salient theme of the play was overcoming fear, we might have the students think about their own fears and discuss why they are afraid of something. Other students can think of reasons why we should not be afraid or simply words of encouragement. We might start off with Selera’s fear of spiders. What does the scared part of her mind say? And what does the brave part of her say? What do her friends and mother say?  We might repeat this with the Troll’s conscience to help us understand and explain why he acted the way he did. This would be a great activity to gauge students’ understanding of characters’ intentions and motivations in both the play and novel/story being studied in class.


Although there is a difference between plays for children and plays by children, I think there were some useful aspects of the performance that one could take away and incorporate into a school production. I really enjoyed the interactive aspect of the show, but I do think that young students might have difficulty doing this themselves, as it requires a high level of improvisational skill- the input from the audience can be unpredictable. However, the set and costume design demonstrated how a show could be done effectively with very little and careful selection of prop and costume pieces.


The characters’ movements also struck me. Students could think about how our bodies move- and cannot move- in order to portray a character. Spider, Hermit Crab, Vulture, and Troll moved in very different manner which added to their character. For a class play, I would really want to focus on movement exercises that help children to “find” their character more completely. We might go outside for a nature walk and watch how different birds, squirrels, or dogs walk, move their heads, smell something, pick up an object, eat etc.  Or we might think about a character’s physical and/or personality traits and see how that changes the way he would walk, run, play, talk etc.


Despite being a short play with few obvious curriculum connections, I still took away some performance and production strategies and ideas. I could see how engaging it was for young children and even the adults in the audience- me included.







Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Amanda
    August 11, 2011 at 11:35 PM

    Great photos!

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