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Famed Performer Tells Kids in New Show It's OK to Be Yourself

With her new work premiering this weekend at the Lesher Center, Sesame Street's Leslie Carrara-Rudolph aims to help kids deal with bullying and other emotional challenges of growing up.

Never mind that scientists in Switzerland may have recently upended Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. Einstein is still one of humankind’s great visionaries, and he is one of many inspirations behind a new kids show, Wake Up Your Weird, premiering this weekend at the Lesher Center for the Arts.

Famed puppeteer — and Pleasant Hill-reared — Leslie Carrara-Rudolph wants to help kids find ways to become comfortable with their own individuality and celebrate it through creativity. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Einstein had to become comfortable with his own individuality as he proceeded to rewrite the laws of physics.

Wake Up Your Weird, with four performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday, is a multimedia one-person show that aims to teach kids how to navigate the emotional challenges of growing up. The Emmy Award-nominated Carrara-Rudolph focuses on those times in childhood when kids feel like they are different from everyone else, are dismissed as being “weird” and even encounter bullying and other forms of social rejection.

“I wrote this play because I thought it was a whimsical way I could address some of the emotional issues young people are dealing with today and give them some creative tools to express themselves,” Carrara-Rudolph says. “I wanted to show kids how easy it is to access their imaginations.”

The show, geared to kids ages 6 and up, began as a one-act musical developed at the Ojai Playwright conference in 2009 and further developed at the Eugene O’Neill Puppetry conference in 2011.

It has received a Jim Henson Foundation Grant and was awarded a Union Internationale de la Marionette Citation of Excellence for the version that was performed at the 2009 International Puppetry Conference. In 2010 it was featured at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta.

Act I tells the story of a candy-loving sock puppet named Lolly Lard pop who gets bullied out of a play date. She deals with her hurt feelings by creating a tale about a girl who takes her brain out of her head, puts it on a leash and lets her mind wander. Characters include a Fairy Grandmother, a giant green lizard and a flying grandma. Lolly learns the power of being herself and following her heart. 

Act II is a 25- to 30-minute audience participation performance and workshop. Carrara-Rudolph talks about how the voice, body and imagination are the three “magic ingredients” that can make ideas come to life and “wake up your weird.”

Carrara-Rudolph is a multi-faceted performer who trained with Walnut Creek’s Fantasy Forum Actors Ensemble for 13 years and appeared in musicals with the Diablo Theatre Company and the Willows Theatre. She earned her bachelor’s degree in child development through art from San Francisco State University. Carrara-Rudolph’s television work spans a variety of acclaimed children’s television programs including Sesame Street, Disney’s Johnny & the Sprites, Nickelodeon’s Wubulous World of Dr. Seuss, and the Learning Channel’s Animal Jam.

Leslie’s voiceover work includes Nickelodeon’s hit cartoon series Tough Puppy and all the characters in The Electric Company’s Haunted House cartoon sketches. She also does background special effects for The Simpsons.

“I love the arts so much and this piece comes straight from my heart and allows me to share that love and connect with communities and reach all ages,” Carrara-Rudolph says. “Theaters are a hub for humanity.”

Wake Up Your Weird shows at the Lesher Center 7:15 p.m. Friday, 2:15 and 7:15 p.m. Saturday and 2:15 p.m. Sunday.

To purchase tickets, call (925) 943-SHOW (7469) or visit www.lesherartscenter.org.

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