A show of songs, sign language and a spider

Aug 9, 2023

MIDDLEBORO – Leslie Elias, executive director of award-winning Grumbling Gryphons Traveling Children's Theater, has been performing since she was 5 years old.

Now, she performs around the East Coast, accompanied by her twin sons Daniel and Arieh Sade.

For Elias, the best part of performing and writing is being able to create an engaging and inclusive environment while telling a story.

“I wanted to integrate storytelling into acting,” explained Elias. “I’m always trying to adapt stories while writing original plays.”

The troupe brought a lively and interactive performance of “Anansi The Trickster Spider,” to Middleboro Town Hall on Tuesday, Aug. 8.

Originating from Ghana, the fable tells the story of the mischievous Anansi the spider, who defends himself from many animals with his wit while retrieving stolen stories.

Grumbling Gryphon’s adaptation of the story includes portions of American Sign Language, created with help from deaf performer Robert DeMayo.

Sandy Paasche, a sign language interpreter from Fairhaven, assisted with interpretation throughout the play. Paasche began learning American sign language at the age of 12 and has since become a teacher of the deaf.

The performance was hosted by the Middleboro Public Library and sponsored by the Friends of the Middleboro Public Library.

“Our summer reading theme is ‘Find Your Voice,’ and we wanted to be inclusive of what that might mean,” explained children’s librarian Amanda Meyer. “So, we chose to include American Sign Language.”

Children from the audience were able to participate throughout the show by signing, singing along and portraying bees and monkeys.

Prior to the show, Grumbling Gyphons held a workshop for children to learn their parts, which was followed by a pizza party.

12-year-old Hazel Leandres, who previously acted in performances of Annie and Madagascar, joined the troupe for the show.

“I love how it is audience interactive. It has a wide range of ages where parts are centered around a certain group of kids,” said Leandres.

Among the audience participants were Mary Jean Liberatore and her granddaughter, Emma Liberatore.

Liberatore said they wanted to come to the show since they both love to sing, and she thought the performance would be a great show to expose her granddaughter to.

“I thought Leslie was fabulous in how she brought everyone together,” said Liberatore. “The community involvement was great.”