Eye-catching stagecraft enhances "A Single Shard," the tale of a courageous boy who undertakes a long journey in search of a better life for himself and his only friend, at Seattle Children's Theatre. Based on the Newbery Award-winning book by Linda Sue Park.


With “A Single Shard,” Seattle Children’s Theatre offers important lessons presented in a beautifully realized production. Adapted by local writer Robert Schenkkan from Linda Sue Park’s Newbery Award-winning book, this is the tale of an orphaned boy in 12th-century Korea, who with dignity, kindness, and perseverance follows his dream and eventually reaps his reward.

Young Tree Ear (Jason Ko), like so many fairy-tale heroes, faces many hardships — poverty, hunger, unkind villagers, an unsympathetic mentor, even robbers. But he has a dream, and he learns from his one friend, the crippled Crane Man (Ho-Kwan Tse), that dreams are for things that are possible but haven’t yet happened.

Tree Ear never gives up. He meets adversity with increased determination, and it is a single shard from a beautifully wrought but cruelly broken clay masterpiece that turns his life around.

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It’s a charming story filled with gently presented but important lessons about kindliness, and doing one’s best. The acting throughout is subtle yet potent. But it’s the stagecraft that’s the star of this show.

From the moment the audience member walks into the theater a mood is set. Massive golden scrolls decorated with elegant Asian designs form a grand backdrop for the almost bare stage on which a potter’s wheelbarrow is silhouetted.

As the play progresses, there are no major set changes, but the audience is swept from pottery workshop to mountain passes, from village to isolated forest. It’s a brilliant accomplishment by set designer Carey Wong and lighting designer Michelle Habeck.

Reinforcing these venue changes is the sound screen created by Chris R. Walker. Tinkling waters, soft cricket chirps, storms and other auditory clues form a delicate yet enriching background.

And an almost life-size puppet of a crane (designed by Annett Mateo) flies at the beginning and end of the show. In Asian lore, the crane represents endurance as well as good fortune and prosperity. It’s an apt symbol for our hero.