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Fayetteville-Manlius parent adapts popular teen novel to stage

Dialogue plays a critical role in telling a story on stage. So why would someone choose to adapt a novel for the stage, based on a character who wishes to remain silent?

"The images from the novel were vibrant and clear in my head," said Artistic Director Steve Braddock of the Gifford Family Theatre (GFT) at Le Moyne College. "I knew I wanted to try to adapt it," he said of the award-winning Young Adult novel, "Speak," by Laurie Halse Anderson.

"Speak" is an ironic title for a story about a girl who opts not to speak. Instead, the story is written as a first-person narrative, much like an inner monologue, and the only perspective conveyed throughout the novel is that of the main character Melinda.

"At first it was kind of a theoretical exercise for me, because much of the book takes place in Melinda's head and theatre relies heavily on dialogue," Braddock said. "And then I changed my focus back to the images, and I found the approach that worked for the script: a combination of projected imagery along with very short, dynamic scenes. And best of all Laurie [the author] approved."

Fayetteville-Manlius and Nottingham high school students are performing the play in November. It's a collaborative production between the two high schools and GFT, a theatre for young audiences that is "trying to fill a niche that other children's theatres don't," Braddock said. It provides curriculum-based age-appropriate plays that bring character education to life.

"I knew I couldn't produce it at GFT because of the sheer size of the cast," he said. "It occurred to me that a high school would be a perfect place for it."

Braddock, who is also a parent of two F-M High School students, went on to meet with theatre directors Scott Austin of F-M and Virginia Fennessy of Nottingham, to see if they were interested in doing the play. They were, and the process soon began.

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