HANAPEPE — Evelyn Roth’s eyes lit up as she watched her latest creation, a 15-foot-long nylon dolphin, fill with oxygen and expand to full size for the first time.
It nearly occupied the entire top floor of the Storybook Theater in Hanapepe, and Roth has to squirm out onto the lanai in order to access the zipper she’d placed at the base of the tail.
She didn’t waste any time diving through the opening and into the breezy world of blue swirls and gray ceiling inside the dolphin.
“I just love the inside of this inflatable,” Roth said as she sat under the dorsal fin, roughly where a rib would be inside the actual mammal. “I don’t do the swirls in all of them, but it gives it such a relaxed, goddess type feel. It’s perfect for a dolphin.”
The inflatable dolphin is the newest addition to the Storybook Theater’s nylon zoo, which consists of two monk seals, a humpback whale and her baby, and a turtle.
Roth has made all of the inflatables over the last 30 years. Storybook Theater’s executive director Mark Jeffers uses them in a traveling educational show he takes statewide.
“They’re inflatable classrooms,” Jeffers said. “The kids file in, one by one, through the tail and sit down to listen to the storyteller, and when they’re done we’ll open the mouth and they can all pile out.”
Inside Roth’s dolphin, the ceiling reaches about 5 feet high. There’s plenty of room between the nose and the fluke for around 10 children to comfortably sit.
“I’ll tell them a story while they’re in here and I’ll rock the sides of the dolphin to make it seem like we are swimming,” Jeffers said. “We’ll talk about where the dolphin is going, what it’s eating, and what it’s seeing.”
Roth began creating inflatable animals in 1977 and her first was a 50-foot-long salmon, created for the Haida First Nations People on Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada. Since then, she’s stitched together 50 different animals including a bilby, crocodile, echidna, frill neck lizard and a couple of dragons.
She joined Intermedia, a group of artists, dancers and filmmakers, in 1961 and published the “Evelyn Roth Recycling Book” in 1974.
The book combined Roth’s knitting and crocheting skills, her love of multimedia art, and her affinity for recycling.
Jeffers said his nylon zoo of six inflatable animals will be going on tour starting in November.
“I go around to all the schools as Capt. Mark and take kids on an adventure while we learn about the different animals,” Jeffers said. “It’s great fun and the kids remember it.”
Schools interested in scheduling an interactive lesson can contact Jeffers at email@example.com, or call Storybook Theater at (808) 335-0712.