Students traverse sci-fi classic

Katie Kowalski, arts@ptleader.com
Posted 3/7/17

"A Wrinkle in Time” was one of Rowen DeLuna’s favorite books as a young girl, and now she’s delighted to see a new generation of kids experience the classic science fiction story firsthand …

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Students traverse sci-fi classic

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"A Wrinkle in Time” was one of Rowen DeLuna’s favorite books as a young girl, and now she’s delighted to see a new generation of kids experience the classic science fiction story firsthand through a theatrical production she’s directing.

“They love it,” said DeLuna, a parent at OCEAN, Port Townsend School District’s alternative learning program, which annually puts on a play for the community.

This year, a cast and crew composed of first-graders though OCEAN alumni, are bringing to life a new theatrical adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s tale of time travel, bravery and love.

“A Wrinkle in Time” opens this Friday and runs for two weeks.

The play – which DeLuna decided to set in modern times during a girls’ slumber party/book club – follows the adventures of Meg Murry, a girl misunderstood and bullied by her classmates, who travels through time and space with her brother and friend to search for her father, who’s disappeared while working on a science experiment.

“A girl as a heroine was quite a novelty at that time,” recalled DeLuna of one of the elements that drew her to the 1962 science fiction novel with its female protagonist.

In directing the play adaptation, she’s observed that the middle school–age girls, especially, have been drawn to the story.

“Meg is them,” she said, and she’s every girl who’s never felt smart enough, or pretty enough.

Aside from a childhood-based fondness for the novel, one of the driving forces that led DeLuna to choose this play was the character of Charles Wallace, Meg’s eccentric and extraordinarily brilliant brother, who by today’s standards, DeLuna said, would likely be considered autistic.

“It really celebrates neurodiversity,” DeLuna said of the story when looked at through a modern lens.

WINGS & WIRE

Another OCEAN parent and art teacher who’s been working on the show, Lisa Doray, also has fond memories of the book.

“I think my greatest refuge as a teenager was hanging out at the [Port Townsend Public] library and reading,” said Doray. “A Wrinkle in Time” was one of the books she read.

Doray teaches an art/tech class at OCEAN, and has been working with the students to create the set and sculptural pieces for the production.

“What I try to do with these sculptural pieces is really push them to a sort of abstract place,” Doray said.

For the artistic pieces in “A Wrinkle in Time,” she was inspired by the work of Nick Cave, she said, and the students, who range in age from 9 to 16, have been excited about the project.

“They’re so creative and so enthusiastic,” Doray said.

One of the pieces Doray worked on for “Wrinkle” is a pair of gleaming wings – a piece Doray plans to develop for May’s Wearable Art show.

Doray also uses the artistic creations as ways to more deeply explore elements of history and literature, and, in this case, the themes of the play.

In “Wrinkle,” a wire mesh puppet is used “to represent physically [Charles Wallace] loosing touch with himself” at a point in the story when he comes to be controlled by another planet to help in the search for his father, Doray said.

Through creating that wire puppet, which has a chaotic look to it, Doray said, the students explored how it would feel to have one’s identity taken away from them.

“This puppet sort of symbolizes what it would feel like to be controlled like that.”

GROUP ENDEAVOR

“The culture of the cast of our play is a microcosm of the larger culture of OCEAN,” said DeLuna, who describes the school as a welcoming community, with kids helping each other to grow and learn, and a place rich with talent, as exemplified in the plays the school produces.

“It’s really brilliant what a child can do when you set the bar high,” DeLuna said.

The production features an all-ages cast and crew, from a group of first-graders to OCEAN alumni working backstage to teacher and school director Liz Quayle, who has taken on the role of mother in “A Wrinkle in Time.”

“Liz is just perfect,” said DeLuna. “We couldn’t have come up with a better Mrs. Murry.”

Quayle, who said her schedule as the school’s director has made it difficult to find time to learn her lines, loves to see the all-ages endeavor that the annual plays are. “I’m always excited to see our youngest and our oldest students working together on a play,” she said.

“A Wrinkle in Time” is produced by OCEAN’s nonprofit parent organization, VOICE, and sponsored in part by the PT Arts Commission.

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