By Lucy Volker
Family-friendly comedy Corduroy opens this month at Olympia Family Theater. The original book, written and illustrated by Don Freeman in 1968, was recently adapted for the stage by Barry Kornhauser. After seeing the play’s world premiere this spring in Minneapolis at the Children’s Theater Company, artistic director Jen Ryle knew it would be an exciting challenge for the troupe to take on this season.
The play alternates between scenes that follow Corduroy the teddy bear in a department store and scenes in the home of a little girl named Lisa. Lisa wants to buy Corduroy, but he’s missing a button on his overalls and her mother says no. As Corduroy tries to find the missing button so he can go home with Lisa, he goes on a nighttime adventure through the empty store, climbing furniture, knocking over a stack of mattresses, and having a run-in with the night watchman. “It is a challenging show in that there is a need for a lot of theater magic to make the show work,” says Ryle, “including an escalator, an independently moving vacuum cleaner, a climbable tower of toilet paper and much more.” The engineering, props and set design are extensive for this production, with a lot of moving pieces to express Corduroy’s playful nature as he moves through the space.
This brand-new play brings a sweet physicality to the beloved story of Corduroy, with the technical aspects adding a contemporary twist. The original themes Freeman explores in the book are still present in the play. “His goal,” Ryle says, “was to create a story that juxtaposed the luxury of department stores with the relatively modest lives of their patrons.” This is shown through the domestic scenes of Lisa and her mother, but the play also highlights the warm friendship between Corduroy and Lisa.
7 p.m. Fridays, Sept. 28 – Oct. 19 (Thursday, Oct. 4 is pay-what-you-can);
2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Sept. 29 – Oct. 21
Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia