I was a big fan of E. Nesbit as a kid, but there were aspects of her turn-of-the-last-century British kids' lives that utterly mystified me. One of them was pantomime. At one point in The Treasure Seekers, the kids all get an offer from Albert-Next-Door's-Uncle to go to the pantomime. It seemed to have something to do with Christmas, and I knew what a mime was--those weird, black-clad clowns who could be seen blowing up invisible balloons outside the Metropolitan Museum--so I always envisioned this pantomime as some bizarre no-words performance of the Nativity story. I also thought of it as something that happened, a) only a long time ago, and b) only in England.
Well. Apparently, I was quite wrong on all these counts. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about pantomime. Basically, aside from being performed around Christmas, it has nothing to do with the holiday; it's a sort of broad farcical version of any one of a number of stock fairy-tale-based stories (Peter Pan started as British pantomime), though there are also original modern pantos--last year, I saw ads for "Panto of the Rings" on the community bulletin board at one library where I work. Which brings me to the other thing I was wrong about: Canada is one of several non-England-based panto strongholds. You hardly ever see it in the U.S., but apparently the area work, being a traditional dwelling for immigrants from the British Isles, is one of the best places in North America to see pantomime-- or, as it is charmingly nicknamed, panto. Just one of those things, like different-colored money and square-cut screwdrivers, that lets you know Canada actually is a different country from the U.S.
So last night, the Renaissance Woman and I pulled our our google-fu to find out how many pantos there are around here, and where they're playing. Turns out we have many choices: aside from old-school panto offerings like Snow White and Aladdin, there are newer adaptations, including The Wizard of Oz and (yes) Panto Wars. We opted for a traditional panto, Babes in the Wood, which promises drama, audience participation, drag (an essential panto element), plus Robin Hood and Maid Marian. As my non-panto-going grandparents might say, what's not to like?
I can't wait.