Ancient Hebrew mythology describes the Ziz as a bird resembling a Griffin standing so large that its head knocks against the sky, and its wingspan blots out the sun.
In the Pumpkin Theatre's production, THE QUEST OF THE ZIZ BIRD, it's a misunderstood monster with clumsy ways and inept social skills.
This charming adaptation of Jacqueline Jules book , The Hardest Word, features book and lyrics by Jimi Kinstle and music by Ryan Michael Haase. The company does a lovely job with the multi-layered harmonies and fable-like quality of the story. The cast features the family gardeners (Anthony Scimonelli, Vanessa Kinzey, Noah Tunis, Jory Holmes, Paris Weeks, and Liz Tilley), whose community garden is a labor of love that produces food given to those in need..
In a clever creative twist, the giant Ziz is portrayed by three actors working in unison as the body and wings (Danielle Robinette, Amanda Rife, Jayne Harris). They are a funny and touching example of theatrical teamwork.
The Ziz is clueless about its frightening effect on others and its destructive tendencies. It fails repeatedly in its attempts to make friends with the humans. The quest is a lesson in understanding how to apologize and forgive. For those whose children struggle to fit in and those whose children struggle with empathy, the story is especially timely. Parables are entertaining teaching tools for young children who fail to grasp direct instruction. Ask any parent caught in the frustrating repetition of "Say sorry to your brother!" Many adults could use a refresher course as well. Flocks of Ziz should descend upon the casts of most reality shows.
The Jewish concept of Teshuvah, literally meaning to return, deals with repentance that leads to a restoration of balance and a rediscovery of our true, best self. It is a return to the infinite potential that lives in each of us.
Teshuvah encompasses apologizing, making amends, dealing with regret, and finally reorienting oneself to a positive future. It moves away from punishment and self recrimination to the knowledge that everyone makes mistakes, but mercy and wisdom are available.
Teshuvah emphasizes joy rather than sorrow, and it's this joyful quality that imbues the storytellers of the Pumpkin Theatre.
THE QUEST OF THE ZIZ BIRD runs through February 3. Performances are at St. Timothy's School, 8400 Greenspring Ave. For tickets, call 410-828-1814 or go online at www.pumpkintheatre.com