Finding "Tales From Around the World," a free theater event for young children, is part of the adventure.
Only a few small, hand-lettered signs along a narrow, bumpy, winding road point the way to the Heavenly Pond Area of Franklin Canyon, where the show takes place. In a small clearing near the pond, a venerable oak becomes prop-holder and canopy for the carpet stage, occasionally scattering stray acorns over the audience seated on mats and benches.
Actors Michael Gough, Cheryl Francis Harrington and Stephanie Miller, under the direction of Merritt Olson, tell tales, exchange patter with the audience and improvise audience suggestions. Large doses of humor and youthful enthusiasm mitigate their rough-around-the-edges style.
Stories from Germany, China, Japan and Russia share the bill with Aesop's Fables. A mandarin names his cat, a farmer outwits a mischievous spirit and so does a rice farmer's wife.
Too much improvisational nonsense verse following limericks by Edward Lear stretches the actors and briefly slows the pace.
The action picks up again as audience members participate in "The Bremen Town Musicians" and "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" and enjoy stories improvised about them by the cast.
By the way, the catfish don't mind a cracker or two after the show, but parents should stay close: That pond is 17 feet deep.
The last performance, presented by the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom in cooperation with Theatre 40, is Sunday at 4 p.m.; (213) 858-3834. (Sanitary facilities are also provided for the handicapped.)
KIDBEAT UPDATE: South Coast Repertory's Young Conservatory will begin its new season of children's theater Nov. 22 at the Orange County Performing Arts Center. The series opens with "Magic Theatre '86," a musical by Saundra Matthews Deacon, and also includes "I Didn't Know That!," a humorous audience-participation show, and Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical adaptation of "Cinderella." KIDscription tickets are now available. Information: (714) 751-7827.