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October 16-November 8, 2024

Best enjoyed by Grades 4-12

Student Matinees


Experience the energy of a graphic novelist’s imagination at work! Dynamic, jump-off-the-page animation shows Kate’s manhwa storyboards coming together, even as she deals with school, friends, and how her Korean heritage fits into her American lifestyle. Will her contentious friendship with Paul help or hinder her progress? Will either of them ever find their true artistic voice? Get drawn into this innovative story that magically takes place both on stage and on screen!

By Michi Barall
Original conception by Michi Barall and Jack Tamburri
Directed by Jack Tamburri

Co-commissioned by Ma-Yi Theater Company and Children’s Theatre Company  

  • Run time

    90 minutes including intermission

  • Best enjoyed by

    Grades 4-12

  • Stage

    Cargill Stage

  • Educator Guide coming soon!

About the Show

  • Drawing Lessons is performed by a small cast of adults and students. The play will feature projections of live drawings of cartoons and graphic novels.
  • This production takes place on our Cargill Stage which seats up to 298 people per performance.
  • We know that teachers are the best judge to determine the right fit for their unique group of students. We recommend Drawing Lessons for students in grades 4 and up due to nuanced subject matter such as alienation, loss, friendship, family dynamics, and self-expression that may not connect with or resonate with very young audiences.

Content Advisories

Language: 1 out of 5 stars
Kate says, ‘It totally one hundred and ten percent sucks!!” One of the students calls Kate a freak. Kate’s family uses some Korean words.

Themes and Situations: 2 out of 5 stars
Kate’s mom died when she was 6, and her dad finds it difficult to talk about her. Kate and her dad get in an argument about Kate not speaking at school. Miss Evans says that Kate needs to learn to be an American even though she was born here and is American (her family is from Korea).

Violence & Scariness: 0 out of 5 stars

Sensory Advisories: 1 out of 5 stars
Sound and lights are used to convey Kate’s emotions and anxiety. The sound effects may be loud or jarring. Lights may flicker. Miss Evans transforms into Kate’s monster drawing and wields giant printed cardboard garden shears. The lights may flash, and her voice will be heightened. We will update this section as we know more about production elements.

Potentially Anxious Moments: 2 out of 5 stars
Kate experiences anxiety about speaking in class and in front of crowds. Her teacher draws attention to her reluctance to speak and assumes that she is not paying attention in class. One of her classmates calls her a freak when she is experiencing anxiety over public speaking.

Full Plot Description

This is a complete description of the play, so it is full of spoilers.

Kate and her dad, Matt, are leaving their house for the first day of 6th grade. This is Kate’s first day at a new school, and she is not looking forward to it. Her dad offers encouragement by reminding her that many of his music studio students attend her new school and that it is a better academic environment. At school, Kate meets Lia and Omar. Omar helps her find her first class with Miss Evans. Kate is overwhelmed by Miss Evans’s quick pace and begins to doodle in her notebook. We see her doodles on the back wall of the stage.

After school, Kate walks to her dad’s music studio. As he works with his students, she notices the Community Announcements board. There is a help wanted ad for a dog walker with a black and white drawing of a dog. The location on the ad is listed as Black Sheep Art Shoppe. Kate takes the ad down and works on recreating the drawing of the dog.

Kate leaves to go to the art shop. A dog named Nemo comes out and gives Kate a sniff. Jon and Paul exit the shop calling Nemo and see Kate. Jon offers her the dog walking position even though Paul is skeptical. We learn that Jon is an actor leaving to go on tour, and Paul is an artist with a weekly comic strip in the newspaper. Kate didn’t know that someone could be a comic strip artist, and Jon suggests that Paul give her lessons. Paul is hesitant but agrees to chat with Kate the next time she walks the dog.

Three weeks later, Miss Evans announces that the class’s oral presentations will be worth half of their grade. Miss Evans asks Lia to give her presentation first because she knows Lia is a good student. During Lia’s presentation, Kate draws the historical figure that Lia is presenting on. Miss Evans interrupts Lia’s presentation to tell Kate to stop drawing and pay attention. Kate wants to tell her that she was paying attention but can’t find her voice. Miss Evans admonishes her in front of the whole class.

We next see Kate at the Black Sheep Art Shop after walking Nemo. She asks Paul to teach her how to draw people, and he tells her maybe tomorrow. When Kate gets home, her dad is upset because she had been gone for so long. He shares that Miss Evans called and he had to go into the school to speak with her. Miss Evans showed him a test that Kate had drawn on instead of filling out. Kate shares that she has trouble concentrating in class because Miss Evans talks so quickly. It comes out that Kate doesn’t talk at all at school. Miss Evans asked her dad to confirm that she speaks English. Her dad gets frustrated and upset, which makes Kate more upset. The scene ends with Kate slamming the door to her room and beginning to draw a picture of Miss Evans as a monster.

We see Kate and Paul together in the art shop. Paul tells her about his comic strip that he writes for the paper. They are becoming friends, and Paul finally relents and begins a drawing lesson. He asks her to draw an inanimate object from observation. We next see an interlude where Kate walks Nemo and works on her drawing assignment. Her drawing is projected on the back wall for the audience to see.

Kate is at her father’s music studio with Lia and Omar. Her dad gives them pizza and encourages Kate to talk with the other kids while he is out of the room. Omar grabs Kate’s notebook, and he and Lia see her drawings. They see the drawing of Miss Evans as a monster and are impressed with her skills. Omar tells her the drawing reminds her of a character from his favorite comic book series. He shows her one of his issues. Kate’s dad comes in and tells Kate to give Omar the book back and that she cannot read comics. When he isn’t looking, though, Omar lends her the book for her to read. She hides it in her bag.

Back at the art shop, Paul is reviewing her inanimate object drawing assignment. As he’s looking at her work, he comes across the drawing of Miss Evans as a monster. Paul thinks the drawing is great and relates to the feeling behind it. Kate draws a speech bubble over the monster that says ‘TALK KATE!’ She tells Paul that she has to give an oral presentation next Friday in class. She shares that she doesn’t know how to give a presentation. Paul tells her that he doesn’t like public speaking either and something he used to do was use index cards. Kate has an idea and is about to run off. Paul hands her her library book and carefully tucks the Miss Evans monster drawing inside the book.

It’s presentation day in the classroom. Omar and Kate are almost at the end of their presentation, and it’s a disaster. Four large panel frames appear drawn in chalk on the board. Only the first one is filled in with a chalk drawing of a dinosaur, with a speech balloon: “Hieroglyphs and Comics.” Kate is working on the second panel, in which a female scribe writes in hieroglyphs. The other frames are empty. Kate is turned into the board in order to hide somewhat from the class. Omar is delivering information, but Kate’s drawing is going a lot slower than she imagined. The class is getting rowdy, and Omar tells one of his classmates to shut up. Miss Evans stops the presentation and says comics have no place in the classroom and that she is disappointed in Omar. She tells Kate to give her half of the presentation so they can finish. Kate doesn’t have any part of the oral presentation planned. Omar quietly suggests to her that she read from the library book.

Kate opens her book but is too nervous even to read. She feels a little dizzy and goes to steady herself at Miss Evans’s desk so she doesn’t faint. She leans over the desk, panting. One of the other students calls Kate a freak. Kate leaves her book, which has the monster drawing of Miss Evans inside, on Miss Evans’s desk. She steadies herself on the chalkboard, smudging her drawings, and flees out of the classroom and down the hall.

Miss Evans, Kate, and her father are having a conference in the classroom. Kate’s dad has just gotten the news that Miss Evans is giving Kate an F. Miss Evans says that Kate was doodling during the presentation and left her partner stranded. Kate’s dad apologizes for Kate, but Kate does not speak. Her dad explains to Miss Evans that in Korea, silence is seen as a sign of respect. Miss Evans tells him that this is America, and Kate needs to learn to be an American. She then reveals that she found the monster drawing inside Kate’s book. Miss Evans says that Kate will probably have to repeat 6th grade. Suddenly, we see Miss Evans turn into the monster that Kate drew. She tells Kate and her dad that Kate needs to apologize with a written letter and start to talk in class if she has any hope of passing 6th grade.

Kate goes to the art shop and tells Paul about what happened. She wants to quit drawing, but Paul tells her that not quitting is what separates artists from everyone else. He tells her about art and design college and an arts high school in nearby Golden Valley. Kate is intrigued by the possibility of doing art in school.

Later at the music studio, Kate is working on her apology letter to Miss Evans. She gets in an argument with her dad and tells him that she doesn’t want to be normal. Her dad leaves to pick up her grandma’s sister, Gomo, at the airport. She’s coming into town for her dad’s birthday and Thanksgiving. Once he’s gone, Kate apologizes to Omar for their presentation and getting him into trouble. He shares his newest issue of the comic book series with her. They are having a comic book contest, and the winner will get theirs published online. Kate is very excited.

Kate brings the contest announcement to Paul at the art shop. She is interested in submitting an entry to help her get into art school. The contest is part of the Comic Convention which is being held in Minneapolis. She asks Paul to help her with her entry, but he says she’s on her own.

Back at home, Kate is greeted by her dad and Gomo. Gomo said she saw Kate walking a dog. Kate has to fess up that she’s been walking the dog after school. Her dad is mad that she didn’t tell him and because he has allergies. He grounds her and says she can’t draw anymore. She yells that she hates the new school, and she wanted to stay in their old house that they had with her mom. She shares she can hardly remember her mom anymore and guesses that’s what her dad wants. Gomo declares that she is going to stay with them until Kate acts grown up. She says that it’s clear that her dad is having a hard time raising her by himself. Both Kate and her dad are taken aback.

We see a montage of scenes of Kate drawing in her mind while staring out the window at the music studio. She sees a photo of her dad and her mom. Her dad is playing the piano, and her mom is singing. She takes the photo. Later we see that she is working on her comic book entry, and many of her drawings are inspired by this photo of her parents.

Kate goes to the art shop to show Paul the first draft of her comic. She is very proud of it. He gives her very honest feedback. He says she has a lot of work to do. Kate is a little defensive and calls him a company hack who doesn’t even draw his own comic strip anymore.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Kate’s dad and Gomo see what Kate has been working on. Her dad isn’t happy about her drawing and reading comic books, but Gomo takes an interest in her work. She recognizes that she is drawing her mother. Her dad shares that he knows how hard it is to be an artist because of his years as a musician.

Gomo gives Kate a manhwa book – a Korean comic book. The book gives Kate an idea for her contest submission to create a character based on herself. We see her mailing in her submission.

Kate and her dad are in another conference with Miss Evans. We learn that Kate has been doing better in school but refused to give a speech about her geography project. Since she has not completed the public speaking requirement, she will need to repeat 6th grade.

Kate gets a letter saying that she has won the comic contest! The award and publication of her comic are contingent on her attendance at the Comic Convention and an acceptance speech. All winners have to give a 5–7-minute speech talking about their comic. Kate’s dad is excited and says he’ll speak with Miss Evans about it counting as her public speaking requirement. Kate hyperventilates and gets dizzy.

Kate goes to the art shop. Paul and Jon are very excited for her and proud. Jon says her dad stopped by and said she can continue walking their dog if she gives the speech. Jon gives her a pep talk about giving a speech. Kate invites them to come see it, and they say they would be honored.

We next see Kate at the podium of the awards ceremony standing next to a projector. As she speaks, she begins to draw a self-portrait on the projector. She talks about why she is quiet and how it is a bit of a superpower.

Afterwards, Kate is congratulated by her dad, Gomo, Jon, Paul, and Miss Evans. Miss Evans tells her that she passed and will not have to repeat 6th grade. Jon and Paul share that they are moving to New York, and they would like to leave Nemo with Kate and her dad.

It’s the first day of 7th grade, and everyone is in high spirits. Kate shows Lia and Omar her newly published comic book, Drawing Lessons.

“I am beyond grateful for the incredible support provided by Peter, Michael and the entire staff of CTC throughout the development of Drawing Lessons and deeply honored to be part of the 2024-2025 Season. I am so excited to share this celebration of the world of comic art and the unique artistic voice of Kate, the play’s 12-year-old Korean American protagonist. A love letter to Minneapolis and its diversity,  I’m especially happy that the first run of Drawing Lessons will take place at CTC.”

–Michi Barall, Drawing Lessons Playwright

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Drawing Lessons Student Matinee

October 16-November 8, 2024


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Nov 8


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