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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 bozo clown. Kate’s family uses some Korean words.

Themes and Situations: 2 out of 5 stars
Kate’s mom died when she was 7, 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 clown 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, Kate doodles on her Converse shoes. Her dad, Matt, encourages her to talk with the other kids, but she is not interested. Rather than draw on her shoes, he asks her to make a poster for an upcoming music competition. He sends her to the nearby Black Sheep Art Shop to purchase posterboard.

Kate leaves to go to the art shop. There she meets the owners Jon and Paul. 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 refuses, but we see a montage of Kate continuing to return to the store after school and drawing in her notebook.

Two 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. She is working on a drawing of Miss Evans as a monster. She asks Paul again for lessons, and he finally agrees. Before she leaves, he gives her a nice drawing pencil and gives her an assignment to draw an inanimate object. Kate recognizes it as the same kind her dad uses. 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.

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, Elfquest. He shows her one of his issues. When her dad isn’t looking, Omar lends her a comic 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. Kate is holding a scroll where she has drawn four panels about hieroglyphs. Four large panel frames appear drawn in chalk on the board. Omar is delivering information, but Kate refuses to explain her work. 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 clown. Kate leaves her book, which has the monster drawing of Miss Evans inside, on Miss Evans’s desk. She 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 refused to give her part of 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. He shares that he started drawing comics when he was young because he was an introvert. He would practice what he wanted to say to other kids in his comics. She could use the drawing to help work out who she wants to be. He gives her another assignment to do a character study of someone close to her from different angles and with different expressions.

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. Once he’s gone, Kate apologizes to Omar for their presentation and getting him into trouble. She gives him the drawing she had been working on. She did her character study of him. 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 and wants Paul to help her. As they are discussing, her dad steps out from an aisle. He was there to buy more pencils and has been listening to their conversation. Paul introduces himself and says that he has been giving her drawing lessons and that she is interested in entering this competition. Kate’s dad is really mad because Kate is not doing well in school and shouldn’t be spending her time drawing. He forbids her from ever entering the store again.

Later back at home, Kate, Gomo, and her dad are eating birthday cake. Kate and her dad continue their argument. 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. 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. Omar brings her more Elfquest comics to help inspire her contest submission. He also tells her about an arts high school in Golden Valley. She is very excited about the prospect of going to art school and is determined to win the contest to help her get in.

A week later 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 and she should start over. What she has created is more of a copy of Elfquest and doesn’t have her own style. Kate rips her comic book in half and runs out.

It’s Christmas Eve, and Gomo sees what Kate has been working on. Gomo takes an interest in her work and recognizes that one of Kate’s characters looks like 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.

Through a couple of vignettes we see Omar and Lia helping Kate with her comic book story and Paul working on a graphic novel. 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 to let them know that she won and that he wants her to do 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.

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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