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‘A Year with Frog and Toad’ brings children’s books onto the stage

Yaqoob Qaseem, Assistant A&E Editor

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“A Year with Frog and Toad” will bring a friendship from popular children’s books to life for both young and mature audiences, as a part of the Department of Theatre’s Imagine U series for family audiences.

“It’s everything that (friendship) means, but in a really accessible way,” said director Jerrell Henderson, who is pursuing an MFA in directing. “It is a play that’s theater for young audiences, but it’s also a play that doesn’t condescend to the point where it’s going to talk down to children or the adults that come. There’s a little bit for everyone.”

Communication senior Maisie Rose, who plays Frog in the play, said she enjoys being part of a performance that does not talk down to any of the age groups in the audience.

“It’s a really lovely show, and everyone can enjoy it without having to make it for kids,” Rose said.

The musical shows how friendship works in a cyclical way by depicting the relationship of the two main characters changing through the seasons, Henderson said.

“You watch them grow, and you watch them struggle, and you watch them come together, and you watch them fall apart,” Henderson said. “They’re more similar than they are different, but it’s the differences that anchor the friendship.”

Henderson said she enjoys the opportunity to introduce young audiences to theater in a way that will encourage them to see more shows in the future.

“I love the children connecting with the characters, because there’s a little bit of each character in each child,” said theatre Prof. Lynn Kelso, founder of the Imagine U series.

The Imagine U productions stage adaptations of popular children’s books.

After each performance of “A Year with Frog and Toad,” children from the audience can come up on the stage to meet the actors and get a closer look at the set, Kelso said.

“In a theater setting, the live actor and the audience have a relationship that’s magic, and it can’t happen any place else,” he said. “I want children to have that experience.”

Joel Solari, marketing and communications manager of the Wirtz Center, said the musical has been easy to market due to the popularity of the children’s books.

Imagine U is in its fifth year and is building an audience base, with 11 of the shows sold out as of Wednesday.

The show will run from Nov. 6 through Nov. 22 in the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater at The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

Henderson said he is looking forward to seeing how the audience reacts to the performances.

“It’s a good story,” he said. “And we’re going to work really hard to do it justice.”

Email: yaqoobqaseem2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @yaqoobqaseem

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