This year, the Toronto Fringe Festival presents Lexi and the Flying b’s at the George Ignatieff Theatre, a show that is just as educational as it is charming. The main storyline follows Lexi (Marina Gomez), a fourth grader, who enters a project in the school science fair while brainstorming strategies to deal with her dyslexia. I appreciate how dyslexia was presented as a challenge with opportunities to develop strategies in this way, not as Lexi’s defining characteristic.
The writer, Joan Jamieson, demonstrates a deep understanding of how students learn, and highlights common letter difficulties throughout. The fact that Lexi stutters on words with b’s, d’s, and p’s made the character believable. This is a common difficulty that many students, with or without dyslexia, struggle with in early literacy development. It is clear that much research was done in the creation of this piece.
I particularly enjoyed how Jamieson strategically highlights how dyslexia looks at varying grade levels. Well-timed flashbacks with Lexi in prior grades give the audience members a clear depiction of how one may cope with dyslexia. From an educator’s point of view, Jamieson is clear and concise in her work. She packs in educational content within the script that poses as useful information for both children and adults.
I found the combination of projection and physical representation notably effective. In one scene, there was an image followed by a video of beekeepers. While the image was playing, actors in bee costumes appeared. This realia helps students make connections with the material. It also was a wonderful way to maintain the focus of young audience members.
The show features an all-female cast playing Lexi (Marina Gomez), Yaya (Erica Kindl), and Max (Mackenzie Kelly). The entire cast is lovable and delightful. Gomez masters youthful mannerisms as Lexi. She is energetic and relatable. Kelly showcases versatility in her characterization of Max and others. Her quirky, shy presentation of Max counters her boastful nature of her other role as a second grade superstar reader. She is always fresh regardless of which role she plays.
At one particular moment, Gomez and Kelly act as if the track for their track and field race extended to the audience. The children laughed and giggled as the two ran in between aisles. They were so engaging that I only wished that there were more opportunities for the children to interact with the actors.
I am delighted that the cast has this strong female presence. However, I’m typically accustomed to seeing more representation of people of color in educational theatre pieces. In upcoming iterations, I would be interested in seeing more representation of varying backgrounds onstage. By doing so, I believe that more young ones may better identify with characters that look similar to themselves.
Lexi and the Flying b’s is filled with wonderful educational information. It is well structured, and is best suited for younger elementary age students. I’m excited to see that the piece offers opportunities for teachers and caregivers to have meaningful conversations about literacy and science-related topics.
Lexi and the Flying b’s is sure to take flight into the hearts of many young audience members.
- Lexi and the Flying b’s plays at the George Ignatieff Theatre. (15 Devonshire Pl.)
- Tickets for Kidsfest shows are $5 for kids (age 12 and younger); adults pay $13.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- The George Ignatieff Theatre is wheelchair-accessible, and has wide aisles for easy mid-show exits.
- Don’t miss the Kidsfest club located on the lawn adjacent to the venue! Free activities for children (3-12) and caregivers run every day of the festival: see website for details.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Thursday July 4th, 1:00 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 3:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 12:00 pm
- Monday July 8th, 4:45 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 2:15 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 11:00 am
- Saturday July 13th, 3:45 pm
Poster image provided by the company