Christian Beltran narrates the Puppet Company's bilingual show, "Carnival of the Animals,” at Glen Echo Park. (Christopher Piper)

What do a lion, a turtle, a chicken, a cat and a cuckoo bird all have in common? They’re all animals in a puppet show called “Carnival of the Animals,” which will be the first show performed in two languages by the Puppet Company at Glen Echo Park. Some of the lines in the 40-minute show, which opens September 21, will be in English and others will be in Spanish.

Going to the play is a perfect way to mark National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15. The month celebrates the customs and contributions of people whose heritage is tied to Spain. This includes people from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Since the Spanish language is a main cultural element shared by Hispanic Americans, this edition of KidsPost is written in English and Spanish as well.

The puppet show begins with a little boy puppet who doesn’t want to practice the piano. “No te gusta tocar el piano?” actor Christian Beltran, 24, asks the little boy. Beltran narrates, or introduces, each section of the show. When the boy playing the piano falls asleep, 14 animals bigger than you are come on the stage at different times and two puppeteers dressed in black work the puppets.

Allan Stevens, who runs the Puppet Company, had the idea to make the show bilingual, which means in two languages. He realized that a lot of kids coming to the shows speak languages other than English. It was Beltran, however, who translated the show. He grew up in Washington, but his parents are from El Salvador and Guatemala, so Beltran speaks Spanish fluently. He’s glad, he says, that his mom always spoke Spanish to him growing up. Now, it’s important that he keeps speaking Spanish so he doesn’t forget it. The show, he says, will be easy for all kids to understand.

Judy Brown, who wrote the puppet show more than 20 years ago, agrees. “This is a good show because you can do it for everybody,” she said.

The Puppet Company's "Carnival of the Animals“ opens Sept. 21 and runs through Oct. 7 at Glen Echo Park. (Bob Brown Puppets)

The show is set to music that was written in 1886 by a French composer named Camille Saint-Saens. He divided the music into 14 short movements, or sections, that he wrote with specific animals in mind. In the first section, for example, piano and string instruments introduce the strong and roaring lion, who sounds like he is creeping slowly through the forest. Then it sounds like he leaps out from behind a bush when the piano comes to a sudden stop.

Since Saint-Saens didn’t write a story to go with the music, Brown thought it would be interesting to add one. “I could do anything I wanted,” she says, “which was kind of fun.”

READ this story in Spanish

Moira E. McLaughlin