The recent 20th Annual Ogre Awards, with its timely election year theme, marked two decades of entertaining performances by the grade 2 Ogre Academy.
“The Ogres are over, and the results of the election are in. The winner is grade 2!” said Danny Dunn, who serves as the show’s writer and director, as well as technical director of the Bucknall Theater.
Sponsored by the lower school library department, this year’s ceremony took place on “Super Thursday,” the afternoon of March 17, in the Bucknall gym. The second graders enthusiastically portrayed an array of colorful characters, including enchanted royalty, witches, fools, tricksters, heroines, villains and magical objects, based on the folklore of cultures from around the world.
Before the lights dimmed, audience members scanned their programs in eager anticipation of the production. They read about how, in the enchanted kingdom of Harker, a general election would be held, with one story elected to the highest office in the land – and subsequently named Best Story. “Candidates from 21 folk and fairy tales have thrown their hats into the ring in the hopes of securing the vote. It looks like a tight race!” stated the program.
The road to the Oval Library began with primary elections, whereby candidates lobbied for their literary party’s nomination. Once they had chosen their candidate, they faced off in the general election. There, 88 delegates of the 2016 Second Grade Ogre Electoral College decided who won the Best Story of 2016.
Lower school librarian Kathy Clark served as the storyteller and mistress of ceremonies for the show, which was created in 1996 by former library director Enid Davis, who retired four years ago.
“I have been lucky enough to be part of The Ogre Awards from the start, when Enid Davis first put the idea forward of a comparative folklore curriculum for the second graders. From the very beginning, we felt that this particular age was still eager to listen to stories and be old enough to have opinions about the archetypical characters,” said Clark.
Clark added that past Ogre Academy participants often reminisce fondly about the stories they represented and their roles. All participants receive a mini Ogre Award for their participation. “I know that many still have theirs, including Harker alumni!” she said.
The Ogre Awards show originally began as an evening performance. A few years later, it expanded to four shows (one per homeroom) until the production evolved to its current format.
There were plenty of election references at this year’s show, including talk of secret ballots, campaign headquarters, town hall meetings and mudslinging ads. According to Dunn, the clever idea of having characters campaigning for their awards had been in the works for a long time, “but of course we wanted to save it for an election year.” Elections seemed to work very well as a theme, she said, because it gave the characters a chance to explain why and how their stories were winners and best represented their categories.
Each year all but one of The Ogre Awards are bestowed upon fairy tale characters. A special Ogre Award is given to a member of the Harker community who provides exceptional service or support to the Harker libraries.
This year that honor went to Diann Chung, who became the lower school admission director in 2015. She came to Harker as a grade 1 teacher in 1995 and went on to teach grade 2 and serve as the K-2 department chair. More recently, she also took on the role of academic principal for the Camp+ summer program.
Chung said she was thrilled to receive The Ogre Award for Lifetime Achievement. While accepting the award, she shared that one of the things she misses most about being a teacher is story time. “Keep reading!” she urged the students. “Books are a wonderful magical transport.”
As the show came to an end, and the polls came to a close, it was time to announce the winner for the new term in office for Best Story. The much-anticipated Best Folk or Fairy Tale Award went to “The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship,” a book illustrated by Uri Shulevitz that retells a Russian fairy tale of the same name. The win was especially notable given the fact that this is the first year the book has been a part of The Ogres.
Before concluding the awards show, Clark informed the cheering audience that The Ogres were made possible by a dedicated team of faculty, staff and parent volunteers.
“I am very proud to be part of a long tradition of Ogres!” said Dunn.