The Giver, Award-Winning Book for Young People, Finds Fresh Life on Stage

News   The Giver, Award-Winning Book for Young People, Finds Fresh Life on Stage
The family-friendly science-fiction-infused play, The Giver, adapted from the Newbery Award-winning book, finds life on two American stages this winter.
Chris Fielder and Richard Alan Nichols in the Coterie Theatre's production of The Giver.
Chris Fielder and Richard Alan Nichols in the Coterie Theatre's production of The Giver. Photo by Marianne Kilroy/Digital Labrador

The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City, MO, and First Stage Children's Theater in Milwaukee are concurrently presenting the Eric Coble adaptation of Lois Lowry's book. It begins Jan. 23 in Missouri, and Jan. 26 in Wisconsin.

According to The Coterie, "It is the future. Where Jonas lives, a world has been created with no violence, prejudice, poverty or injustice. It is Jonas' new job to receive from The Giver all of the memories that society can no longer face. As Jonas begins to look more deeply into a life that has been very superficial, he senses that his past goes back farther than he had ever known, and has greater implications than he ever suspected."

Jeff Church, director of the Coterie staging, said in production notes, "It's this generation's '1984.' This is the inspection of Utopia that follows in the vein of 'Brave New World.' It deals with a futuristic society and asks such questions as, 'Is it better to have climate control? Is it better to have no pain or a man-made society without racism and with equality, but the cost is that everyone is the same?'"

The Coterie production features original music and incorporates both theatrical and video techniques. It is the second of three works in Coterie's Preteen/Young Adult Series. Both troupes suggest the work is not suitable for kids under ten.

Performances continue to Feb. 25 at both Coterie and First Stage. Lois Lowry was born in Hawaii and grew up in New York, Pennsylvania and Japan. She is the author of more than 30 books for young adults, including the popular "Anastasia Krupnik" series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader's Medal and the Mark Twain Award. Lowry received Newbery Medal awards for "The Giver" and "Number the Stars."

Lowry began writing "The Giver" after visiting her failing parents in a nursing home, according to biographical notes. Her mother wanted to reminisce, telling stories from her life. Inevitably she talked of the death of her first child, Lowry's sister Helen. Lowry tried to distract her, "but she lingered there, telling the details of it, needing to remember the anguish of it, for a long time," Lowry said. Lowry's father, in the assisted living wing of the nursing home, had no such memories to share. He does not remember his past.

The Coterie cast features Walter Coppage (Father), Chloe Fey (Fiona), Chris Fielder (Jonas), Lily (Katie Hall), Richard Alan Nichols (The Giver), Kimberely Queen (Mother), Brandin Tolbert (Asher) and Shelley Wyche (The Chief Elder).

The Coterie artistic and production company includes Jeff Church (director), Jeff McLaughlin (set designer), Christine Taylor (videographer), Ron Arens (video editor) Jon Fulton Adams (costume designer), Ron Megee (properties designer and swing stage manager), Art Kent (lighting designer), Jason Scheufler (composer), David Kiehl (sound designer), Kristen Koehn (production assistant), Amy Abels Owen (stage manager) and Scott Horbart (technical director).

In Milwaukee, Jeff Frank directs a cast that includes Mark Metcalf as The Giver, Laura Nicholas as Mother, James Fletcher as Father, Samantha Montgomery as Chief Elder/Ensemble, Maddie Cindrich, Chloe Higgins, Emily Daly, Mia Imperl, Jenna Ehlinger, Sophie Cohen, Jane Engelking-Heer, Nurit Applbaum, Ari Shapiro, Zach Both, Ryan Tutton, Joel Boyd, Abby Wickman, Austin Llanas, Alonzo Williams and Alec Moran.

His creative team features scenic designer David Minkoff, costume designer Kim Instenes, lighting designer Noele Stollmack, sound designer Josh Schmidt, production manager Scott Wirtz Olsen and stage manager Sarah Hoffmann.

The Giver was first commissioned as a theatre piece by Oregon Children's Theatre.

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