Children's Classic Gets Hip Hop Update

Wooden puppet 'Pinocchio' becomes a video game animation

Susan Logue

The children's classic, "Pinocchio," gets a hip hop update in a new theater production by Imagination Stage, a children’s theater in the suburbs of Washington.

In this version, the main character’s name is P. Nokio, and he’s not a wooden puppet, he’s an animation in a video game, brought to life by the Graffiti Fairy.

The play, "P. Nokio: a Hip Hop Musical," is the creation of Psalmayene 24.

“For some reason Pinocchio has always resonated with me,” the playwright says.

Psalm, who has written other plays inspired by hip hop culture, thought the story “really lent itself to that type of interpretation.”

Psalm not only wrote the play, he also plays the main character. Like the wooden puppet, this P. Nokio chooses fun when he should be going to school.

And he lies, which causes his nose to grow, a development which that is shown on video monitors above the stage.

The Graffiti Fairy (Paige Hernandez) confronts P. Nokio (Psalmayene 24) in a scene from Imagination Stage's hip hop retelling of
The Graffiti Fairy (Paige Hernandez) confronts P. Nokio (Psalmayene 24) in a scene from Imagination Stage's hip hop retelling of "Pinocchio."

“At its core, Pinocchio is really a story about redemption,” Psalm says. “We have this puppet who makes many mistakes. He goes astray many times, but at the end he finally does the right thing.”

P. Nokio, like his predecessor, risks his own life to rescue his father. “We all make mistakes,” Psalm says, ”but you always have an opportunity to right your wrongs.”

Psalm has written adult plays, but he enjoys writing for young people. “I feel like I can really let my imagination run free and run wild, because children will follow you almost anywhere, as long as you keep things active and really interesting.”

The musical clearly does that, often using call and response to get the young audience involved. "P. Nokio" performances sold out at Imagination Stage. But the show will return after traveling elsewhere.

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