This new play for young audiences is inspired by the true story of an educated horse and the man who trained him, incorporating mask, puppetry, and original music.
Using only patience and kindness (and apple slices) former slave William “Doc” Key trained his ugly duckling of a horse, Jim Key, to spell and count. Their traveling show became an inspiration for millions of school children. Jim Key became the “poster horse” for the earliest days of the humane and literacy movements. Millions of schoolchildren signed the Jim Key Pledge, promising always to be kind to animals – and the equine wonder became an inspiring role-model for children learning their letters and numbers.
Young audiences who know firsthand how challenging learning letters and numbers can be will enjoy the story of how Jim learned to read and count, and how he inspired millions of schoolchildren to do the same; and they will respond to the true story of a remarkable animal’s abilities, and the values of kindness and patience that Doc Key espoused. Older children and adults will enjoy the story of Doc Key, who grew up in slavery, trained himself in medical and veterinary medicine, became a successful entrepreneur, and whose natural way with animals made him (and Jim) the biggest celebrities, and role models, of their day.
Did Jim really learn to read and write, or had Doc just taught him an amazing trick? Can some people really “talk” to animals? What do we think the animals in our lives know? The most enduringly popular children’s stories feature wonderful animals with human-like intelligence or magical powers. The story of Beautiful Jim Key is a story of the relationship between humans and animals, our understanding of animal intelligence, and the value of friendship, cooperation, kindness and patience.
2015 Development residency at Banff Centre Playwrights Colony and Leighton Artist Residency
2-day run of workshop production produced as part of Family Festival 2015 at the Metro Studio in Victoria BC, dir. Kathleen Greenfield.