Musical production teaches kids how to be green

The Freeman Stage will feature the musical “It’s Not Mean to be Green,” based on the book by Jamie Kleman, on June 19 at 10 a.m. The show is free and open to all ages.

Patti Grimes of the Freeman Foundation explained that the book was one written by Kleman to open up the vernacular of “going green” to children.

“‘Going green’ means different things to each of us,” said Grimes. She explained that when Kleman asked her son what it meant to be “going green,” he conjured up visions of snakes and alligators and monsters.

In the book, young Michael McDurth learns all he needs to know about going green.

“I wrote it to explain the simple steps that every family can take – little things that will make a big difference,” Kleman said. “And also to remind adults that we can’t just say words without explaining what they mean.”

Grimes echoed Kleman’s sentiments about the importance of watching words when speaking with children.

“If you asked me and five other adults what ‘going green’ means, you would get five different answers. And when we try to teach children, our language or vernacular may not land on them in any shape or form,” she said with a laugh.

Kleman is the mother of a first-grader and a fourth-grader and a children’s book author. She wrote “It’s Not Mean to be Green” in the summer of 2008. The book, written in verse, offers such tips as turning off the faucet while brushing teeth and shutting off the lights when not in that room. Many activities included in the book are group-oriented.

“They filled up a trash bag that was gigantic.

Then headed to the market to buy organic.

In reusable bags their groceries they took,

To the library to check out a movie and book.”

The book is illustrated by Tara Volpe, and is available via and at stores such as YoYo Joe’s in North Wilmington.

As for the musical, it made its theatrical debut at the Wilmington Theatre on Earth Day 2010.

Kleman is as much a “locavore” as she is a green enthusiast, drawing from Brandywine Valley and Delaware Valley talent to produce the play. Professional musician Chris Cotter of Pocopson, Pa., is helping score the music. Patrick Duffy – cofounder and chairman of the Chatham Bay Group, a real estate development, acquisition, investment and management company with offices in Philadelphia, Wilmington and Dubuque, Iowa – and Barbara Slavin, of Ocean View, who has since left the DuPont Theatre, are producing the play.

Wilmington resident Sarah Spagnoli is designing the set, based on Tara Volpe’s illustrations, which the team is building in Kleman’s basement. Veteran performer Tom Wang of West Chester, Pa., is directing the musical.

Kleman is writing the lyrics for the five to six songs, and her husband, Bill, who plays piano and guitar, is helping write some of the music.

Their children and their children’s friends, meanwhile, are contributing moves to the “Go Green Dance,” which serves as the play’s finale.

Kleman said she looks to the children for feedback.

“I have my target audience living in my house,” she noted. “I watch their favorite shows, listen to their favorite songs, and I know what makes them laugh. I’ve really tried to use that.”

“I am beyond thrilled to be working on this musical,” Kleman said. “It really is a dream come true for me, and I have a clear vision of where it can go.”

Grimes explained that environmental responsibility is an important facet of the Freeman Stage, where they try to reduce the carbon footprint. The stage offers recycling containers and has eliminated straws and lids on beverage to manage waste, as well as using beverage containers made of recyclable materials. They also have a puppet comedy show about recycling coming in August.

For more information on upcoming shows at the Freeman State, visit