SALT LAKE CITY — Flora Meets a Bee is a precious story of a little girl from Mexico who is living with a foster family in America and looking for friendship. The bee is busy and doesn’t want to be her friend, but after some playful banter and understanding each other better, they end up being best friends. I brought my 6-year-old daughter, and she enjoyed the performance. I attended the performance at the Glendale Branch of the City Library, and there were a sizable group of kids in the audience excited to see the show.
Both Ariana Broumas Farber (playing Flora) and Brenda Hattingh (as the Bee) had a strong energy, which was great for kids and helped them quickly engaged the audience. For an adult, though, the beginning of the play was almost too loud for me as the two characters seemed to be shouting at each other in the close quarters of the library space. But as the story went on, the humor grew, and I became accustomed to the play. One funny moment occurred when Flora and the Bee were face to face with their sides to the audience; the one yelling would lean forward as the other leaned back, and they went back and forth a while, periodically turning just the head out to the audience.
I also enjoyed director Jerry Rapier‘s use of the space. There were 5 dots on the floor that my daughter was convinced were flowers, and Hattingh would run busily to each dot in succession and turn in a circle on the dot, gaze focused down and move on quickly to the next. Farber would move from dot to dot skipping or dancing or jumping like in hopscotch. I thought Rapier did a marvelous job with the characters blocking and movements, as it made the play fun and silly, yet strenghtened the personalities of Flora and Bee.
Flora Meets a Bee was such a well written play. I love how playwright Morag Shepherd wrote the characters to be accessible to childlike thinking. For example, when Bee asks, “Are you a thief?” Flora immediately responds, “People have definitely told me that, yes.” This way of responding doesn’t make Flora accept that title, yet she is aware that’s a label thrown around, and their further discussion displays the facts without judgement. Having been labeled often as a child and unaware of why a label was bad when an action seemed appropriate, I found it refreshing for children to hear a subtle message about resisting labels. Likewise, having Flora explain why she takes things helped me see her as human and not under a label. When the bee asks if she is a kid, Flora responds in a completely different way, trying to convince the bee that she is an adult.
Additionally, the mixture of Spanish and English was brilliant. I loved the line, “De vez en cuando, algo puede pasar,” which means, “Once in a while, something can happen,” referring to her joy at finding a friend and her hope she has for future events. Even the last exchange was perfect: Flora exclaims how she is so happy, and the bee asks her to tone it down. So, they both agree to be half-happy and be friends. It was so cute and a special moment.
The play included pantomimes, which the actors invited the children to join in, as well as sounds they had the children do, like buzzing. One of the pantomimes was eating a honey stick. As my kid’s favorite treat is honey, seeing them eat honey sticks was exciting to my child, and she enjoyed the familiarity. The performers came into the audience periodically to put pollen on the kids or sit with them. At the end, they asked the kids questions to make sure they understood what happened in the play. It was a great learning experience for the children in the audience as they learned about understanding and communication, the life of a bee, how honey is made, the foster system, and Spanish language and culture.
The most important takeaway from this show is that kids need closeness and love just as much as adults. The theme of the busy bee and busy parents not having time for a child who has so many needs was heartbreaking, and I love the empathy kids in the audience showed as they watched the play. Their needs for friendship and nurturing were validated. Flora Meets a Bee will be touring in elementary schools, and there is another free performance that parents will definitely want to take their kids to. This play is best for ages 4-9, but can be enjoyed by all audience members.