The Adventures of Pinocchio
Study Guide

The Adventures of Pinocchio
Music & Lyrics by Neil Bartram
Book by Brian Hill
Directed by Sheila McCarthy


This study guide was written for Young People’s Theatre (YPT) by Emily Alldrit, recent graduate of the Bachelor of Education program at Queen’s University, and Molly Gardner, YPT’s Education Manager. As you scroll through this guide, you will find curriculum connections, notes from the designer, discussion questions, units of study and more. You will also be able to click on any templates, worksheets and/or graphic organizers. If you wish to create your own lesson plan from the study guide copy, we have created a lesson plan template for your use. We hope you will find this guide to be a useful resource. Should you have any questions or feedback or have inquiries about the use of this guide (which is copyright protected), please feel free to contact Karen Gilodo, Associate Artistic Director, Education at

Thematic Overview

The Adventures of Pinocchio was originally written as a children’s novel by C. Collodi published in Italian in 1883. Over 136 years since then the story has been adapted and translated into many different languages, and is recognized around the world as a classic European folk tale. One of the most well-known adaptations of the story is the 1940 Disney film. This moral tale centers around Geppetto, a woodcarver, and his puppet Pinocchio who wants to become a real human being.

This musical theatre adaptation of The Adventures of Pinocchio with music and lyrics by Neil Bartram and book by Brian Hill is making its Canadian Premiere at YPT. The story asks the audience to think about what it means to be human. What does it mean to make choices, and to care about other people in your world?

The season theme at YPT this year is the Seven Ancestral Teachings of the Anishinaabek and The Adventures of Pinocchio is connected to the teachings about Honesty. When Pinocchio lies, his nose grows. This character clearly shows that when he is not honest with himself or others there are consequences. Over the course of Pinocchio’s journey, he learns about the consequences of his choices and, in the end, chooses to save his father, even if it means sacrificing his dream to be human. In making this selfless choice, Pinocchio magically turns into a real human being, with all that entails. Themes of self-discovery and integrity, choices and consequences, as well as the value of kindness and caring for others, permeate this play.

Gender Roles and Stereotypes

The story of Pinocchio, including this adaptation, makes reference to the idea that Pinocchio wants to turn into a “real boy”. The notion of what “real boys” are is something Pinocchio wants to discover, and what he thinks he finds in Terra di Ragazzi, “the land of boys”. This land is extreme: a land of no rules, excess food and desserts, constant fun and aggressive behaviour. Pinocchio decides to embrace this parentless place, wanting to belong. In turn, this choice results in him turning into a donkey.

We want to acknowledge that the play reflects binary and stereotypical gender norms that arguably come from another time, but may still be reflected in contemporary culture. In this production, we hope to focus on Pinocchio’s journey and his learning from a more human perspective, but we encourage you to engage with these questions of gender normativity with your class. Why are the behaviours and the environment of excess associated with notions of masculinity? Why are girls excluded from Terra di Ragazzi? What are the implications of these stark divisions?

Curriculum Connections

  • Social Studies – understanding structures and mechanisms
  • Science and Technology
  • Mathematics – data management and probability
  • The Arts – Drama, Music, Dance
  • Health and Physical Education – personal safety and injury prevention
  • Language Arts

Seven Ancestral Teachings

  • Honesty


  • Developing one’s sense of integrity
  • Learning the value of family
  • Choices and consequences

Curriculum Expectations

Social Studies

  • describe some of the ways in which people’s roles, relationships, and responsibilities relate to who they are and what their situation is, and how and why changes in circumstances might affect people’s roles, relationships, and responsibilities as well as their sense of self;
  • use the social studies inquiry process to investigate some aspects of the interrelationship between their identity/sense of self, their different roles, relationships, and responsibilities, and various situations in their daily lives;

Science and Technology

  • investigate characteristics of parts of the human body, including the five sense organs, and explain how those characteristics help humans meet their needs and explore the world around them using a variety of methods and resources;


  • describe probability as a measure of the likelihood that an event will occur, using mathematical language;

The Arts

  • demonstrate an understanding of the element of character by adopting thoughts, feelings, and gestures relevant to the role being played;
  • express feelings and ideas about a drama experience or performance in a variety of ways, making personal connections to the characters and themes in the story;


  • express initial reactions and personal responses to musical performances in a variety of ways;

Health and Physical Education

  • demonstrate the ability to recognize caring behaviours and exploitive behaviours, and describe the feelings associated with each;


  • identify some non-verbal cues, including facial expression, gestures, and eye contact, and use them in oral communications, appropriately and with sensitivity towards cultural differences, to help convey their meaning;
  • begin to establish a personal voice in their writing by using pictures and words that convey their attitude or feeling towards the subject or audience;


A woodcutter, Geppetto, and his wife Alice always wanted a child. Alice falls sick and dies, leaving Geppetto alone. Geppetto decides to put all his love into making a child out of wood. Geppetto’s puppet becomes his son Pinocchio. Pinocchio wants to be a “real boy” more than anything. He is swept-up by the excitement of his new surroundings, and instead of listening to his father, he chooses to listen to others who do not always have his best interests in mind. By putting his own desire to become a “real boy” first, Pinocchio gets lost. His journey back to his father teaches him that what makes a real person is the choices they make, their own responsibility for those choices, and the love they show for others. When Pinocchio acts out of love for his father, he becomes the real human he wants to be.

Designer’s Note

About ten years ago, I accidentally started a collection of children’s books. I found an old copy of Pinocchio; I was drawn to this edition because it was filled with wonderful illustrations. The illustrations were rough, like doodles sketched amongst the text; fun, yet simple, and full of personality. Ten years later, I brought this very book to one of my first meetings with Sheila McCarthy. I think for me, seeing Pinocchio’s adventures again through those torn and weathered pages reminded me of the joys of reading children’s books, not only for the story, but for the wildly imaginative, ever-detailed, and magical illustrations that often come with them.

For this version of Pinocchio, Sheila and I really wanted to recreate the charm of the story on storybook pages. Early on, Sheila knew that our production should be simple, not over-complicated with tricks and “magic”, but still surprising. It was fun and exciting to create a show that does not hide how we created the fantastical moments of the play, but actually leans into them. Through this simplicity, we are reminded and challenged to use our imagination.

I designed a set that at a glance could feel like the centre of a quiet small Italian town, but also serves us by being our orchestra pit, having secret entrances and surprise moving parts, as well as transporting us to Terra di Regazzi. To further spark the audiences’ imaginations, the costume designs start from an ensemble in a uniform look (simple and functional), and transform into the motley crew of unusual and fun characters that Pinocchio encounters by adding specific costume pieces. I wanted to create a world where the characters could be a bit ambiguous and blur the lines of feminine and masculine expectations in clothing (something I feel is reflected more and more on the streets of our city). I wanted to then make sure the characters looked unique, unexpected, fun, and unapologetic.

I should end with mentioning it takes a village to bring a world such as our Pinocchio to the stage. Each individual who brought their wondrous creativity and talents to this show made it better than we could have ever imagined!

Joanna Yu


Free Will: freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or divine intervention.

Gender Norms: gender binary (where people are thought to have one of two genders: either “man” or “woman”) influences what society considers “normal” or acceptable behaviour, dress, appearance and roles for women and men. Gender norms are a prevailing force in our everyday lives and can contribute to gender inequality in the home, work, school and communities.

Improvising: to create or play a scene spontaneously without rehearsal.

Tableaux: a depiction of a scene with actors that is still and silent; a stage picture.

Pre-Show Discussion Questions

Ask students:

  1. How does one make choices in their day-to-day life? Is it difficult? Why?
  2. When making choices, is it important for people to think of themselves first or others? Why?
  3. What does honesty mean? How does someone show honesty?
  4. If someone is not honest, what are the consequences? What can happen?
  5. How can people learn from making mistakes?
  6. What does it mean to care for others? Is it important to be kind? Why?

Pre-Show Unit

Pre-Show Warm-up Activity: Count to 10!


Have students consider themselves within a group, listen and support each other to complete a group task.


  1. Divide the class into two groups.
  2. Have each group count to 10 as a group. No one can speak at the same time or say the same number. If anyone says the same number at the same time, the group must start back at zero.
  3. Note: Expect the group to have to start back at zero a number of times. Support the process of the students learning to work together to best achieve the goal. If students are struggling, ask what strategies the group could use to best achieve their goal.

Debriefing Questions

  • Was it hard to work together as one team on this task?
  • What strategies did you choose to reach your collective goal?
  • Is it easier to work on your own or with others? Why?

Pre-Show Activity 1: One Word Story


Have students think about their choices and the consequences of their choices within a group when asked to complete a group-oriented task.


Open space for students to move.


  1. Have students sit in a circle and explain to them that their goal is to tell a story together.
  2. Have one student start the group’s story by saying a word.
  3. The student sitting next to them says the next word. The pattern continues until all students have had a chance to say a word. If the story feels like it needs to be further expanded or has not reached a conclusion, continue around the circle one more time.

Debriefing Questions

  • As a group, how effectively did you tell a story?
  • Did you feel like you had freedom in this exercise or not?
  • What word choices did you make and why?
  • Did any of your choices have consequences to the story, or to the rest of the group? Were they positive or negative consequences?
  • In this exercise, did the group influence you in a positive way? Why, or why not?

Pre-Show Activity 2: Thematic Tableaux


Have students explore key themes in the play by demonstrating what the words mean to them through tableaux.


Open space for students to move.


  1. Divide the class into groups of 3-5 students.
  2. Explain the term “tableaux” (see Glossary). Ask students what are the different elements of tableaux that help tell a story (physical gestures, levels, facial expressions, etc.).
  3. Ask the students to create a tableau for each word that you give them. They will get 30 seconds to create their stage picture as a group. (Honesty, Responsibility, Kindness, Lies, Consequences, Integrity, Self-Regulation, Listening).
  4. Circulate after every word to see all the stage pictures. Give feedback on how groups are clearly showing what is going on.
  5. Ask each group to show the rest of the room one of their tableaux while the others are the audience. Have the room guess what the word is. Have the group explain their tableau.
  6. Ask the students if it was difficult to make a choice about what their tableau was going to be. Is making choices difficult? Why?

Extension Activities:

  • Have groups take one of their tableaux and improvise a scene with characters, actions and words.
  • Ask students how they made choices during their improvisations. When they made choices, were they thinking of themselves or the other actors in their scene?
  • Is it easier to make choices for yourself or for others? Why?

Post-Show Discussion Questions

Ask students:

  1. Why does Pinocchio reject going to school?
  2. What are three situations in the play where Pinocchio must make a choice? How does Pinocchio feel about making choices?
  3. Why is Pinocchio turned into a real human being at the end of the play?
  4. What does Pinocchio learn by the end of the play?
  5. What does it mean to be yourself?
  6. How can people encourage or support others to be themselves?

Post-Show Unit

Post-Show Activity 1: Pinocchio Probability


Have students learn and apply terms of probability more likely, less likely, equally likely, and impossible.


A board or chart paper to write on, or a handout;
Pens or pencils


  1. Ask students to explain the terms more likely, less likely, equally likely and impossible.
  2. Offer the following questions to students either on the board or on a handout asking them to apply their knowledge of the above terms.
  3. Pinocchio is trying to make a decision. Should he go to the puppet show or should he go to school?
    • He decides to flip a coin. What is the likelihood that Pinocchio will go to school?
    • Pinocchio uses the spinner below to make his decision. How likely it is that he will go to school?
    • Pinocchio uses the spinner below to make his decision. How likely it is that he will go to school?
  4. If Pinocchio goes to the land of boys with Lampwick, what is the probability that he will become a real boy? Explain your reasoning.

Post-Show Activity 2: Measuring Free Will


Have students consider their opinions when it comes to free will (see Glossary). How much choice do they feel they have?


Open space in the classroom.


  1. Create an imaginary line in your classroom and make one side “strongly agree” and the other side “strongly disagree” and explain that there is a range of opinion in the middle.
  2. As you say the different statements, have students place themselves along the imaginary line.


  • I like to make choices.
  • I make many choices in my life.
  • I have no choice in what happens in my life.
  • I find it easy to choose between what is right and wrong.
  • I choose who I am.
  • My choices affect others.
  • Others influence my choices.

Debriefing Questions:

  • Did you find that it was easy to answer these questions?
  • Were you surprised by your responses?
  • Did you ever change your mind after you made a choice?
  • What did this exercise show you about making choices?

Post-Show Activity 3: Being Real – A Talk Show


Have students consider the point of view of characters in the play and use physical and vocal characteristics to create characters.


Chairs for the students performing.
A stage area or open space in the classroom for students to perform for the rest of the class.


  1. Divide the class into groups of four or five.
  2. In each group, have students take on one the following roles: Pinocchio, Geppetto, the Puppet Master, Lampwick, the Blue Fairy and the Talk Show Host. Someone must play the Talk Show Host. Explain that in this role, they are invited to a TV Talk Show Debate: Being Real. As their characters, they are asked to respond to the question: “Is it important to always be honest?”
  3. Have each group improvise their scene in front of the class. The Talk Show Host’s responsibility is to moderate, giving everyone a chance to speak. Characters are allowed to respond to each other, but everyone should get a chance to speak at least once. Every group has three minutes for their segment.
  4. Encourage students to show who their character is using physical gestures, facial expressions and voices.

Debriefing Questions:

  • What did you learn about your character as you did this exercise?
  • Based on what your character thought, or what you heard from other characters, did any of the debate change your personal perspective towards honesty?


  • Switch roles and turn the talk show into a musical or opera Talk Show. Encourage students to convey the characters’ thoughts and emotions through song.
  • Switch character roles again and turn the Talk Show into a dance Talk Show. Encourage students to convey the characters’ thoughts and emotions through dance.
  • Write a letter to the character you portrayed from someone else in their life. Tell them how a choice they made affected you. Were you inspired? Disappointed? Enlightened? Angry? What was the consequence of the choice they made?


Encyclopedia Brittanica
Merriam-Webster Dictionary
The 519