The Deeper Political Allegory of "Caps For Sale" ?

Sunset Playhouse welcomes Bug In A Rug Children’s Theatre’s Staging of a Children’s classic

Jan. 27, 2011
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It was a simple, early 20th century work by a woman born in Siberia—a board book that people the world over remember from childhood. Esphyr Slobodkina, who wrote Caps For Sale, passed away a few years ago. As an artist, she’d done a lot of work in every major form of media. She’ll be best known as a name on the cover of Caps For Sale—a book that looks vaguely familiar. I distinctly remember a couple of different weird conversations about the deeper political allegory of the story . . .  here’s a quick outline of the 30-panel board book.

A peddler (a respectable-looking member of the bourgeoisie) is walking into town selling caps. All the caps rest on his head. There are sixteen—seventeen if you include his hat (but he’s presumably not selling that one. (As he is selling the caps for 50 cents each, the street value of the peddler’s stock: $8. (That’s roughly $121 accounting for inflation--this was originally written in 1940.)

The local economy must not be very good, as the peddler isn’t successful. No one wants to buy the caps. The streets of the town look deserted. The peddler is exhausted, so he goes to sleep beneath a tree. When he wakes-up the caps are gone . . . sixteen monkeys (clearly members of an oppressed proletariat) in the tree have claimed his hat as their own. It’s a revolution. 

Cute. The allegory kind of falls apart in the end, but it’s kind of a weird idea  that I can’t get out of my mind. A staged children’s theatre adaptation of Caps For Sale has opened today at the Sunset Playhouse in Elm Grove. The show, which runs through the 30th is a brief, kid-friendly show (completely devoid of political allegory, I’m sure.) Those attending are welcome to show-up at the theatre an hour in advance for monkey-themed kiddie crafts.

Running only one weekend, the Friday and Saturday performances are already sold-out. There were, at last check, tickets available for the 1pm show-closing matinee on Sunday, January 30th. Reservations can be made by calling 262-782-4430 or by visiting the Sunset online.




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