Admittedly, as a Community Theater, we could easily fill the coming years completely with “repertoire” classics. Producing musicals from Broadway’s golden age and dramatic literature from Thornton Wilder, Harper Lee, Tennessee Williams, etc. would be a delight. My argument in this blog is that all art at one time was new. I believe we must make room for new art and the message that art has to offer. It wasn’t long ago that Hamilton was new and most people who first heard some of the tracks probably scratched their heads and thought, “what is this”? In any given season, like many other directors, I try to offer a variety of performance art.
I chose The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane to adapt and obtain licensing for in the interest of “new art”. I want children and their families reading more. I want to create interest in books that either have fallen off of or haven’t yet made it on the required reading lists. Edward Tulane is a fairly new book. Kate DiCamillo in her own right, already established herself as a front runner in children’s literature with her book Because of Winn Dixie.
It is my opinion that Edward Tulane represents a classic narrative known as “the hero’s journey”. This is when the main character undergoes a series of trials and often times travel. Through this struggle, the character is transformed. The twist in this hero’s journey, is that Edward is an inanimate object; a toy. The defining difference that makes Tulane so notable is that each new person he interacts with is not an obstacle to overcome, but a relationship journey in and of itself. He isn’t battling giants in Odyssean fashion but rather learning how to love with each passing owner.
The messages within its text are universal and connect with its audience. Questions like, “What’s the point of loving if I risk losing?” He asks himself this, trying to desperately to guard his heart against possible loss. He gives in to apathy at times. Edward also has fears that every child can possibly identify with. This especially shows towards the beginning when he loses his first owner. He wonders if his first owner, Abilene, will come for him. He feels abandoned, lost, and unsure of his surroundings.
Edward’s primary problem, according to Abilene’s grandmother, Pellegrina, is that he doesn’t know how to love. Her words, “You disappoint me,” echo in Edward’s thoughts throughout his journey. This overarching theme, learning how to love unconditionally, knowing full well that you can lose the one you love, and furthermore loving despite having lost before, is one of the great problems that humanity faces. Without giving away the story or spoiling the gift that this story truly is, Edward learns to believe that “someone will come for me”. We must believe that despite loving and losing; if you open your heart and believe that someone will come for you that you can find love and ultimately find your way home in the process.
I hope, through this narrative, that you can see why Tulane is worthy of dramatic performance. Why this story must be told and shared with the world. I sincerely hope that you come along for this miraculous journey.
Kristi Kargic is executive director for Footlights Community Theater based in Athens, AL. She is an elementary teacher with a lifelong love of performing arts. She strives to provide art in her home community at little to no cost to participants. Kristi is a published poet, playwright, and performing musician. Her motto is "if you build it, they will come."