A Message From Our Fearless Leader
Writing these messages to our audience is one of my favorite things about being the Artistic Director of Epic. So often, I’m given the opportunity to speak through the plays I choose for the theater and with the work I write myself, but it’s nice to just break down all the barriers and speak directly to you--the people who come to see our productions.
It’s not possible to predict what sort of mood anybody is going to be in when you choose plays for a particular time of year. Forecasting what people will need from the art in their lives months in advance is like guessing what someone’s going to want for dinner a year from now. Sometimes the best bet is to go with an old favorite.
This summer, we decided to produce two plays that were both meaningful to us as children and that still resonate with us into adulthood--
The first was Charlotte’s Web, and now we’ve reached The Secret Garden.
Mary Lennox, the protagonist of our story, has experienced pain beyond her years when the play begins. She’s lost everything she holds dear and is forced to begin a new life with family members who may as well be strangers, and a house shrouded in mystery and grief.
When we meet Mary, she’s masking her despair with anger. That’s something I was struck by as I was reading the many different adaptations of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novel. The rage that develops when people are too scared to deal with their own hurt.
I was also grappling with how this story could ever have been considered one that’s appropriate for children. It’s filled with tragedy and intrigue, heartbreak and, yes, healing. After watching young audiences respond to Charlotte’s Web, however, I realized that children have a depth of feeling we don’t always give them credit for, and that there’s an immense value in offering them the opportunity to see a child like Mary, living in a world she can’t control, learn to navigate that world as best she can.
Months ago, we opted to tell two stories about friendship this summer. I’ve found that it’s changed the atmosphere in the theater. While the world outside has grown increasingly darker, we’ve been able to welcome in people of all ages to sit for awhile and watch characters onstage learn to be kind to one another. To form communities. To help lift each other up. It’s been profoundly rewarding for us all.
Like many artists, I’m usually drawn to slightly edgier material than what we’ve been producing here at Epic the last few months. It’s fun to act out conniving and scheming, strategizing and manipulating, or even lunge at somebody with a sword (and those are just our season planning meetings). But I’ve grown to love seeing so many of you introduce the little ones in your life to theater for the first time. It’s been our privilege to be their first trip to the theater.
I hope you’ll make The Secret Garden one of those experiences. It’s been made with a lot of love by a lovely group of people, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
Oh, and if you have to guess what to eat in a year, go with pizza.
It never fails.
Thank you for another great summer, and--