Half gazelle, half elephant and 100% rockstar, Giselle la Trent the Gazellephant teaches students friendship, acceptance, and the importance of following your dreams. Through catchy songs, over-the-top personalities, and clever dialogue, this children’s musical from Aggregate Theatre based in Raleigh is a wonderful addition to our Artists in Schools (AIS) program.
United Arts got a sneak peek of this humorous and heartfelt story at their latest dress rehearsal. Normally the audience members are elementary school students, but this day the preschool children at First Baptist Church attended with their teachers and parents. Not only did the characters keep the attention of 3- and 4-year-olds – a feat in and of itself – but they also had the adults laughing out loud. With references to Farrah Fox and Lizard Skynyrd and characters like Martin Lion King, how could we not?
Although the play is new to AIS, its creator is not new to arts education. Matthew Hager (below) has worked as a teaching artist with Justice Theatre Project, North Carolina Theatre, and Burning Coal Theatre Company. In 2021, Matthew received an Artist Support Grant from United Arts to produce a five-part audio version of Gazellephant, and during that time he wrote new songs that are now included in the stage production. Matthew says he is excited to bring his original musical with all new songs to Wake County students this year.
Jessica Flemming, the original, one and only, Giselle le Trent, really rocks the role of a half-gazelle, half-elephant girl on her first day at Thomas Girafferson Elementary School. She is definitely the “rock–starriest, rockstar around!” Throughout the play Giselle and her former bullies turned friends learn how to not only accept others as they are, but to accept themselves as “unique, not freaks.”
United Arts is excited live theatre is back in Wake County schools! Live performances safely expose students to difficult situations and show them firsthand how to handle them. Gazellephant encourages children to analyze conflict and relationships they see in the musical and recognize them as situations they have seen in real life. As the characters learn and grow, they teach the students how to show empathy toward others and learn the importance of walking in someone else’s skin…or fur or feathers!
When asked how he came up with the idea of a gazellephant, Matthew said he was playing with words one day and thought the combination was fun and original. So do we!
But be warned: The songs will continue to happily play on a loop in your head, long after the performance ends.
Giselle la Trent the Gazellephant Cast Photo (l-r)
- Ms. Pronunciation: Mark Filiaci
- Gore the Warthog: Dylan Bailey*
- Giselle le Trent the Gazellephant: Jessica Flemming
- Dad, Martin Lion King, Wag the Dalmatian: Daniel Miller
- Margaret the Cat: Alli Mae Carnes
- Matthew Hager: Book, Music, and Lyrics
(*FUN FACT: Dylan works at Seed Art Share, one of our Mission Support Grantees. And yes, it IS true, United Arts continues to MAKE ART HAPPEN in many different ways across Wake County!)