“We’ve taken the spirit of the book and deconstructed everything – no set or costume changes. It’s down to the essence of the story.”
Artistic Director and show director Debbie Devine gushes as she talks about 24th Street Theatre‘s upcoming production of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, adapted for the stage by Dwayne Hartford from the award-winning novel by Kate DiCamillo, with additional Spanish supertitles to accommodate their community-based audience.
Edward Tulane is an expensive toy rabbit made of china who can neither move nor speak, loved by a little girl named Abilene. But Edward doesn’t care. He is vain and self-centered. When he is accidentally thrown overboard during a sea voyage, Edward is taken on a many years journey that turns into one of self-discovery.
“It’s a sweet story, deep and heartbreaking. There’s a lot of darkness there.”
As years pass by, Edward meets many different people in many different situations: an older grieving couple, a hobo and his dog, a farmer, a sad little boy, and his very ill sister, and finally a doll mender and an old doll. Through this ‘miraculous’ journey filled with so many interactions Edward learns what it is to love, what it is to lose that love, and how to find the courage to love again.
“We need people to listen to us. We don’t listen to each other. The beautifully rendered people he encounters have lost children, are homeless, are ill, or very much in ‘need’ of things. They all talk to this inanimate object which of course they don’t think can actually hear them. But there is something about Edward that allows them to speak to it. And it eases their suffering. Although he never speaks back. Only the audience hears the rabbit. Because Edward has the experience of being spoken to he becomes filled with love. He learns what love is and also how painful love can be. And the tragedy is that he ends up on a shelf for years, lonely and wishing he had never discovered love until one day he is found by his original owner who gives him to her children.”
24th Street’s, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is as sophisticated in celebrating the language of the piece as it is heartrending and uplifting. According to Devine, beautiful in its music and lights and video aspects. But simple.
“It’s meant to speak to adults as well as to children. And it speaks to that part of our mission as well as the basic concept of theatre which is imagination.”
When asked how she thought the story speaks to audiences and the immediate community today, Devine has an equally simple approach…
“The central fact of life should be love. It’s critically important. It is vitally important that love be a part of our world. There is so much hate in the world right now. Don’t we want a story that celebrates hard-won love…understanding what love really is and to not walk away from that even when it’s painful? Because it’s hard to love. Love invites loss. It is painful. But it is critical to being a human being.”
Photo (above) by Jennie McInnis: Carlos Larkin as Edward Tulane
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