DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR
COTTONWOOD SHORES — Just how do you take a bestselling book called “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” and turn it into a stage play?
Well, that’s exactly what the actors and crew at Hill Country Community Theatre will do starting Feb. 13 and running through Feb. 23.
“It has had its challenges,” said Jenny Lavery, who is directing the stage version of the book. The collection of essays was penned by Robert Fulghum about how many of the things you learn as a child still apply as an adult, only in a bit more complicated setting.
When the playwrights turned Fulghum’s book into a play, it wasn’t the typical narrative.
“Basically, the playwrights took the essays, broke them up for a cast of about five people to tell,” said Steve Reily, the theater’s executive director. “What they do, it’s almost what I’d call character theater. It’s a very unique experience.”
The playwrights gave directors a lot of leeway in how they produce the play. Typically, Lavery said writers give specific instructions on the production from cast to set.
“The writers (of ‘All I Really Need to Know’) left a lot of it open so we could do it with a cast of four people or a cast of 30,” Lavery said. “We could do it with a blank stage and a minimum of costumes or do something else.”
In Lavery’s interpretation, the characters discover an attic filled with treasures that trigger memories about lessons learned. From those memories, the cast brings out the story. And it’s not just a person sitting on stage reciting a monologue. Lavery and the cast created stories told through one person but using other characters, almost weaving a series of stories into one play.
This form also challenged the cast, which includes Becky Barton, Lee Wilson, David Sweigart, Jana Diamond and Tana Morris.
“They found that they had to move between being an actor and a storyteller,” Lavery said. “Those are two very different things. We took some time when we started rehearsing to study what storytelling is, and we looked at actors who weave storytelling into their performances, like Bill Cosby.”
And the cast responded, she added.
While the play offers unique challenges, Lavery said the message it brings to the audience is well worth it. Like the book, the play highlights the valuable lessons people learn as children and how, despite the years and the layers that have complicated their lives, those lessons remain some of the most important.
“There’s a lot of comedic high points, but it takes you through the laughter and lands you with a piece that’s very heartwarming and meaningful,” Lavery said. “It reminds us of all those lessons we learned as kids that are still some of the best and are still relevant now that we’re older.”
Along with Lavery, Mandi Whittlesey is serving as the production’s musical director. Deann Randle is the stage manager, while Reily is the scenic and lighting designer.
The play opens Feb. 13 with an opening night gala starting at 6:30 p.m. The gala includes complimentary hors d’oeuvre and drinks until 7:30 p.m. when the curtain goes up. The play continues Thursday-Sunday until Feb. 23. The shows are 7:30 p.m. with a Sunday matinee at 2:15 p.m.
Admission is $20 for adults and $9 for students 16 and younger. Group rates are available. Tickets can be purchased www.thehcct.org. Call (830) 798-8944 for reservations.
The theater is located at 4003 FM 2147 West in Cottonwood Shores.