For Daniel Alexander Jones, inspiration for Duat has come from many different aspects of culture and history. We asked Daniel to give us a list of some of the things that inspired this play. We are presenting them here in a series we call Details of Duat. Up first are those beloved PBS childrens’ television shows from the 1970s and early 1980s.
Since its inception, PBS has been airing educational programming for young children with the promise that their content will be both fun and engaging. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, two shows aired that serve as inspiration for certain sections of Duat; The Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact. The former was focused on literacy while the latter was created to make science fun for kids.
In a New York Times article from 1983, Dr. Edward Atkins, the director of content for 3-2-1 Contact, said, “We hope to plant the seed of curiosity, to make children assert their curiosity about how things work and why, and to discover the excitement of science. Then they are ready to go back to their teachers to ask questions, and, we hope, to want to keep learning more.”
As audiences will see with Duat, especially in the third section of the work, these ideas about making education visual and fun and non-didactic are what the work draws from. Also relevant is the 1970s palette of visual inspiration found in these shows. Just listen to the amazing opening theme of 3-2-1 CONTACT below. There’s more than a bit of Duat in it…
This desire to “plant the seed of curiosity” can also be felt in The Electric Company, which debuted in 1971 and is still on the air today. With songs that drew inspiration from the funk and disco of the ‘70s, the performers on The Electric Company taught children about the magic of words and language, another key element of Duat. In the clip below you will notice that the ensemble is singing and dancing in a library, and the whole clip espouses the importance of libraries at a rather turbulent time in America’s history; another Duat overlap.
These shows were education presented as spectacle. You’ll see moments inspired by these shows throughout Duat.
What are your memories of these shows? Bonus points for guessing who the actor is in the above clip!