By Matt Ocks, Manager of Institutional Giving
The Arden was founded by artists with a penchant for literary adaptation, and though our evening subscription series has diversified considerably since the late 1980s (read: Sondheim musicals, works from the canon by Arthur Miller and Thornton Wilder, new American plays by Michael Hollinger, David Davalos et al), our devotion to the printed word can still be seen most consistently in our Children’s Theatre programming.
Think of your favorite Arden Children’s Theatre show of the past 5 years. Chances are it shares a title with a book you read when you were a kid (important exceptions to this rule include the original show The Dinosaur Musical, as well as Sleeping Beauty, which is of course based on a beloved fairy tale). My favorite is The BFG. Not only was it a great show with exemplary performances and eye-popping staging, it was based on a book I had the great pleasure of reading when I was 9.
The act of producing Children’s Theatre is very much akin to the act of reading a bed-time story to your favorite kid or grand-kid, niece, nephew, cousin, etc. Don’t you often have the desire to choose a book you loved when you were their age, even if said kid doesn’t ask for it? I’m pretty sure my mom always got more out of reading The Little Engine That Could then I did. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a very inspiring story, and I found it very encouraging. But Mom had more life experience, more memories of the book than I did, and it resonated with her more deeply. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get choked up in the same way when I read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (a book whose passages resound in my mind to this day) with my own kid.
The reason I bring this up is: If Children’s Theatre offers grown ups the chance to introduce kids to the books they loved in a new and exciting format…what great books haven’t we done yet?
To put it another way: If you had the chance to read a bed-time story to 12,500 kids (the number who very well may see our If You Give a Mouse a Cookie), what old book from your childhood would you take off the shelf and adapt for them?
In my case, in addition to the aforementioned Chekhovian masterpiece of futility by Judith Viorst, I would pick The Wizard, the Fairy and the Magic Chicken, a purposefully stupid tale I made my mother read to me constantly when I was little and which, according to amazon.com, is now – most distressingly – out of print.
Let us know the kids’ book you would want to adapt, and we’ll try and let you know if someone’s beaten you to it, or if the chance to bring it to the stage still abounds.