SLAC’s ‘Elephant & Piggie’ Is a Fresh Take on Old Lessons  


“Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are in a Play!'” promo (Courtesy Salt Lake Acting Company)

By Tervela Georgieva, Arts Writer


On Dec. 26, Salt Lake Acting Company premiered “Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are In a Play!’” as part of an exclusively-streaming experience on SLAC Digital. The production, based on Mo Willems’ best-selling book series “Elephant & Piggie,” was SLAC’S 13th children’s production for Utah families and Title I students. High energy and warmhearted from beginning to end, “Elephant & Piggie” was a joyride packed with valuable lessons on friendship that resonate no matter our age.

Learning Together

“Elephant & Piggie,” created by Mo Willems and Deborah Wicks La Puma, followed the adventures of two best friends an elephant named Gerald (Matthew Rudolph) and a pig named Piggie (Wendy Joseph). Gerald is an anxious elephant, worried something bad could happen that would end his friendship with Piggie. Piggie is the opposite — happy-go-lucky and not worried about a thing. Regardless of their differences, the friends had something to learn from each other. 

From a party hosted by the Squirrelles — a trio of spunky squirrels with dazzling sequin jackets (Madison Archibald, Talia Heiss and Eva Merrill)—to a penguin ice-cream vendor, Gerald’s and Piggie’s wacky adventures were also lessons about friendship such as sharing, apologizing and saying goodbyes.

Gerald got a pistachio ice cream that he knew Piggie would love. Instead of eating it by himself, he decided to wait for her and share it. Piggie lashed out at Gerald after he accidentally broke her new toy. Instead of continuing to say hurtful things to him, she apologized, realizing their friendship was more important than any toy. “Elephant and Piggie” dealt with topics in a forward yet gentle way, making them digestible to a young audience, while still relevant to an older one. 

We Are in a Play! 

“Elephant and Piggie” was self-aware — a play that knew it was a play. The Squirelles were not only characters, but also worked backstage. As an audience, we got glimpses backstage, such as when one of the Squirelles had to work the sound system. The audience and Squirelles were aware of the play’s multidimensionality while Gerald and Piggie were not. Only at the end did the two realize they were being watched by an audience, specifically a crowd of puppets, among them a banana, cat and cow. At first, Gerald was afraid of the audience, but with the help of Piggie and the Squirelles he came to enjoy interacting with them. The interplay between audience and performer became something to be celebrated as a space of connection and possibility.

In debates about art’s role in society, I’ve often noticed a binary created between didactic art and entertainment art. “Elephant and Piggie” evades this simple binary and opts for something fresh and exciting. It’s instructional while also absurd and funny. I can’t help but imagine a young kid watching “Elephant & Piggie,” excited at the prospect of being in a play or getting over their fear of being on stage, just like Gerald does. The performing arts have the power to do that, and that’s something undoubtedly worth supporting. 


“Elephant & Piggie’s ‘We Are In a Play!’” will stream through Jan. 9. Tickets are available on the SLAC Digital website.


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