One hundred years ago on the shores of Maine, the African American population of Malaga Island was forced to evacuate their homes under the guise of economic improvement for a nearby, neighboring town. Beginning Fri., March 16, Children's Theatre Company (CTC) will mark the 100th anniversary of this event by bringing this, and the emotionally charged story of an unlikely friendship, to the stage in Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy.
Artistic director Peter C. Brosius directs this tale of racial injustice, generational strife, economic conflict, music, baseball and the power of friendship. Turner Earnest Buckminster III has become best friends with the smart and lively Malaga Island native Lizzie Bright Griffin. When Turner's town elders threaten to wipe Malaga of all its inhabitants for the town's economic benefit, Turner and Lizzie know they have to do something-but can they act before it's too late?
Brosius and Elissa Adams, director of New Play Development for CTC, first read Gary Schmidt's novel in 2005 and commissioned acclaimed playwright Cheryl L. West-whose newest play, Pullman Porter Blues, debuts at Seattle Repertory Theatre this fall-to adapt it.
"This is an extraordinary story that needs to be told," says Brosius. "It is a story about friendship and what it means to 'stand up' for oneself and one's community." Brosius emphasizes that every community has a similar story embedded in its history. Locally, our community is still grappling with the history of the Rondo neighborhood, in St. Paul, and the widespread discontent and displacement the ensuing development caused.
Joining Brosius in this new work are: Traci Allen, most recently seen in the National Tour of The Color Purple and previously at CTC in Five Fingers of Funk, Bud, Not Buddy and Fashion 47, in the title role of Lizzie Bright; and CTC newcomer Sam Bardwell as Turner Buckminster. Bardwell has performed in local venues from the Guthrie Theater to the Jungle Theater – where he played the role of Charlie in the Ivey Award-winning Mary's Wedding. CTC veterans Lee Mark Nelson, as Turner's strict father Reverend Buckminster, and Ansa Akyea, as Lizzie's grandfather Reverend Griffin, are back on the UnitedHealth Group Stage. Nelson was most recently seen on CTC's stage as Daddy Warbucks in last year's Annie, and Akyea has performed on CTC's stage in Huck Finn, The Iron Ring, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Watsons go to Birmingham-1963.
CTC company member Autumn Ness' transforms into the cantankerous 80-year-old Mrs. Cobb. Ness, in her 12th season at CTC, was last seen as Mrs. Whatsit in CTC's production of The Wrinkle in Time. CTC company members Reed Sigmund and Gerry Drake play the roles of Deacon Hurd and Phippsburg's Sheriff, respectively. Performing apprentice Miles Duffey plays the Deacon's son, Willis Hurd.
Scenic design for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is by G.W. Mercier. Mercier's past CTC productions include Bert & Ernie, Goodnight!, Iqbal and Average Family. On Broadway, Mercier designed the set and costumes for Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass by Julie Taymor, receiving a Tony Nomination for Scenery and two Drama Desk nominations for Scenery and Costumes.
Amelia Cheever, costume designer, has designed costumes for more than 50 productions at the Jungle Theatre including Glass Menagerie, The Seafarer, The Gin Game, The Syringa Tree and Shining City. Victor Zupanc, composer and sound designer for Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, is in his 22nd season as music director at CTC and Paul Whitaker, lighting designer, returns to CTC having worked on previous productions including The Wizard of Oz, Mercy Watson to the Rescue! and Annie.