Meets the Hooded Fang
Who sets the rules? How does a young person prove their value? What can happen when young people work together to achieve their own goals?
In this study guide, you will find discussion questions that prompt students to consider how young people express themselves and explore ways that they can make change in the world around them. You will also find exercises that push students to think creatively and use their imaginations to tell stories and create new characters. Encourage them to be both brave and silly in their creative choices! It is our hope that this production and guide are starting points for students to evaluate and question their ideas about heroes and justice and to recognize the power they hold as children.
- The Arts (Drama, Music)
- Social Studies (Roles and Responsibilities)
- Language (Oral Communication)
- Math (Number Sense and Numeration/Patterning)
Character Education Connections:
- Kindness & Caring
- Child Power
- Celebrating Canadian Literature
- Challenging Injustice
The musical Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang is based on an original book by the same name, written by renowned Canadian writer Mordecai Richler and published in 1975. Young People’s Theatre debuted the first musical stage version of the story three years later. 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the book’s launch and so we are thrilled to revive the show for YPT’s 50th season.
Mr. Richler wrote a truly hilarious and insightful satire depicting arbitrary adult behavior and savvy children who want a say in the shape their lives take. For this year’s anniversary production, Britta and Anika Johnson have composed all new music in order to ensure that the musical tone of the show relates to young people today.
Jacob Two-Two, like many six year olds, struggles with becoming independent and being heard. Children want autonomy, to be given credit for their abilities and to be family and community members in meaningful ways. With themes of secret heroes, standing up to bullies, friendship and collaboration, discovering bravery and pushing boundaries, this story of child empowerment is as relevant as ever. Parents and educators, be warned: your kids might come away from this musical comedy with a few demands!
Every child has value in the world and this show delivers an important message about recognizing this potential in everyone.
Allen MacInnis and Jen Shuber
About Mordecai Richler
Mordecai Richler was born in Montreal in 1931. He grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood and his experiences there would inform much of his writing. After graduating from high school he completed two years of university at Sir George Williams College (now Concordia University). By the age of 19 he left Canada to live and travel in Europe where he began to hone his craft as a writer. He lived in London and Spain and it would be 22 years before he returned to Canada to live permanently – at this point with his wife, Florence and their five children: Daniel, Noah, Jacob, Martha and Emma. All of the children are namesakes in Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang and they are now writers or journalists in their own right. The book was first published in January 1975 as the fulfillment of a promise to his children that Richler would write a book for them. The book has been made into a film (twice!) and has been staged at YPT several times throughout our 50 years.
- What power do children have?
- Who makes the rules? Do you have any say in the rules that you have to follow?
- Who should make decisions about when children are “old enough or big enough” to participate in certain activities?
- What is “satire”?
- What do you think the average adult or big person thinks of kids?
- What is the best thing about being a kid? What is the best thing about growing up and getting bigger?
- What do you do if you have to follow rules that you think are unfair?
- Can rules be changed? What is the best way to change the rules?
Warm Up: Playing by the Rules
In this fun and quick exercise students will take turns being the leader and the followers. Students will practice listening skills and will engage in creative thinking.
Space in which to move.
- Have students form a tight circle by either joining hands or standing shoulder to shoulder.
- Ask for a volunteer to stand in the centre of the circle.
- Have the rest of the students take a step toward the centre of the circle, making the circle complete.
- The student in the middle of the circle is now the “Rule Maker” and as such, once they make a rule, everyone must follow it (e.g. everyone wearing red must flap their arms, everyone who has older siblings must sing loudly, everyone with brown hair must hop on one foot).
- Once the Rule Maker announces a rule, everyone to whom that rule applies must switch places with someone else in the circle while following the rule.
- The Rule Maker must try to take an available spot in the circle, leaving the last student to find a new place in the middle of the circle to be the next Rule Maker.
- Encourage students to not repeat any rules. The sillier the rules the better.
- Did you like making the rules or following the rules? Why?
- Why do we have rules?
- Who makes the rules in real life?
Exercise #1: Exploring Status
In this exercise students will develop new characters while improvising scenes that examine power and status.
- A deck of cards
- Space in which to move
- Prepare a deck of cards so that it only contains the Ace, 2, 3, Jack, Queen and King. Make sure that you have enough cards for each student in the class (you might need to use two decks of cards). Ace, 2, 3 will represent low status characters. Jack, Queen and King will represent high status characters.
- Hand out one card to each student and ask students to not show anyone the card they pulled.
- Students are now going to improvise a scenario as a whole class. Every student must play a character that reflects the number of the card that they pulled. Students who pulled the lower cards have the least power and students who pulled the Jack, Queen or King have the most.
- As a class, choose a scenario to play out (e.g. The class hamster is missing! The school bus is late picking kids up from school! Brainstorm other scenarios with students.). Give students time to think about what character they will play in the scene to reflect the number of their card.
- Give the students one minute to play out the scene.
- After a minute, stop students, and ask them to guess the value of the cards pulled by other students and to explain their guess. Once students have had a chance to guess each other’s cards and characters, ask if they can think of a scenario in which the characters with the smallest numbers would have the most power.
- Give students another minute to improvise this new scenario.
- What behavior did you see in the scene that indicated whether people did or did not have power?
- What power do children have? When do children have the most power?
- What is the difference between power and status?
- How can you change your status?
- What are the responsibilities of powerful people?
Culminating Exercise: Take Over Day!
In this exercise, students will prepare to take over the classroom. Students will establish goals and decide how to work together to achieve them.
Ideally the students will be able to enact the plan created in this exercise during scheduled class time. This exercise is flexible and can be a tool for students to take over the classroom for one period, half a day or whole day.
- Writing utensils
- In-class time
- Take Over Day Goals & Rules Template
Organize students into groups of four.
- Ask students to discuss what would happen if students took over the class for a day? Would it be chaos? Do students think they could be responsible for their own learning on that day? What could it look like? If students became the teachers, what and how would they teach the teacher?
- Explain that the students have the chance to organize a Take Over Day. Using the Take Over Day Goals and Action Template, they will work collaboratively to define goals and rules that they will need to achieve on Take Over Day.
- The class will also work together to choose the best time for Take Over Day to happen in their class schedule.
- The class will also define what the role of their teacher will be on that day.
- Have students come together and collect all of the ideas. As a class, choose four goals and four rules for Take Over Day.
- Establish a word that can be used to pause the action for clarification or if the activity needs to be re-set in some way. Teachers or students can use this word at any time.
- Schedule the Take Over Day. Allow students to help choose the best time for this to happen.
- Once the Take Over Plan is in place and the day scheduled, let colleagues and parents know about the special day.
- Make it happen!
- Tell YPT how it went. We would love to hear from the students about the successes and challenges of Take Over Day.
- Jacob is the youngest child in his family. Do you have siblings? Are they older or younger? What role does birth order play in how you are treated?
- In an interview about Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang, Mordecai Richler said that he wanted to write a story that wouldn’t condescend to children. What does “condescend” mean? Was he successful? Why? Why not?
- Do adults ever get scared? What do you think scares them?
- Why were most of the adult characters in the play mean, scary or unhelpful to Jacob and the rest of the children?
- Why should adults be helpful to children?
Warm Up: Character Exploration
In this exercise students will take a closer look at some of the characters in the play to examine their motivations and think about the characters’ silly and strange behaviour.
- Space in which to move.
- Have students name all of the ‘big people’ Jacob encountered in the play (i.e. the Grocer, Justice Rough, Louis Loser, Mr. Fish, Mrs. Fowl, Mr. Fox, Artie the Octopus, the Hooded Fang and the Slimers).
- Ask students to choose one character and walk around the space as that character.
- Give students time to “hot seat” some of the characters from the play. Have one student stand or sit in front of the class as their character. The rest of the class now has the opportunity to ask the character questions about their life. The student in the “hot seat” must answer in character.
Exercise #2 Child Power Characters
In this exercise students have the opportunity to create their own Child Power characters by examining their personal strengths and attributes.
- Writing Utensils
- Space in which to move
- Child Power Character Template
- Have students get into pairs to discuss the following questions together:
How did Jacob Two-Two change throughout the play?
How did Jacob Two-Two earn a place in Child Power?
- Give students two minutes to discuss their answers to the questions. Ask for volunteers to share their ideas.
- Give each student the Child Power Character template. Tell students that you just received word from Shapiro and O’Toole that they, like Jacob, have all been accepted into Child Power. They must create their Child Power characters using the Child Power Character Template to answer the following questions:
- What is your Child Power character name?
- What are your Child Power strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How did you earn your place in the Child Power team?
- What do you think Child Power means?
- What does it mean to be brave?
- What qualities do we value in our heroes?
- Are there any real life superheroes?
- Why is it important for a hero to recognize their weaknesses?
- What responsibilities do heroes have? What is your responsibility now that you are all part of Child Power?
Culminating Exercise: The Child Power Oath
Students will apply and build on the skills they have learned in the previous activities to dramatize the creation of the great Baobab tree. This activity will allow them to work together to explore the theme of community by creating “the tree of life”.
- Space in which to move
- Divide students into groups of four.
- Have students introduce their new Child Power characters to each other.
- Explain that as members of Child Power they have to create a new Child Power oath that details the following:
- What does Child Power stand for?
- What does Child Power fight against?
- How will you work to help those who need it most?
- Have students discuss the previous questions. Give students time to come up with a creative way to perform their new Child Power Oath to the rest of the class.
- Once all of the groups have presented, work together to create one Child Power Oath for the whole class.
- Share a copy of your Child Power Oath with YPT!
Education & Participation Department,
Young People’s Theatre,
165 Front Street East,
Toronto, ON M5A
Reviewing a Play
Jon Kaplan’s Introduction to Student Reviewers
Theatre is, for me, an art form that tells me something about myself or gets me thinking about the world in which I live.
Whether going to the theatre as a reviewer or simply an audience member, I think that watching a play is an emotional experience and not just an intellectual one. I always let a show wash over me, letting it touch my feelings, and only later, after the show, do I try to analyze those feelings.
That’s when I start to think about some of the basic questions you ask when you’re writing a review – what did I see (story, characters, themes); how did I respond to what I saw; what parts of the production (script, performances, direction, design and possibly other elements) made me feel and think what I did; why was I supposed to respond in that fashion?
When you go to the theatre to review, take a few notes during a show if you feel comfortable doing so, but don’t spend your time writing the review during the show; you’ll miss what’s happening onstage.
Writing a review doesn’t mean providing a plot summary. That’s only part of the job; you have to discuss your reaction to what you saw and try to explore some of the reasons for that reaction.
I don’t believe that there’s any such thing as a totally objective piece of criticism. We are all individuals, bringing our own backgrounds, experiences and beliefs to a production. In some fashion, every one of us sitting in the theatre is a critic, no matter whether we’re writing a review or not; we all react to and from judgments about what we see on the stage.
When I go to a production, I always keep in mind that the people involved in putting it on have worked long and hard – weeks, months, sometimes years – getting it onto the stage. Even if I have problems with the result, it’s important to respect the efforts that went into the show.
Jon Kaplan is Senior Theatre Writer at NOW Magazine, where he’s worked for the past 35 years.
Goehart, Bernie. “Q&A: Jacob Richler on the series his father named after him.” Montreal Gazette. June 29, 2001.
Perreaux, Les. “Mordecai Richler gets his glory: Montreal renames library after him.” Globe and Mail. March 12, 2015.
Pugsley, Alex. “An Interview with Mordecai Richler.” Brick Magazine. Summer 2008.
“Mordecai’s Richler Author Profile”. Quill & Quire. December 1997.
“Jacob Two-Two Meets the Hooded Fang.” CBC Digital Archives.
Definition and Description of Hot Seating:
Council of Ontario Dance and Drama Educators (CODE)
Student-Led Lesson Strategies & Examples: