Big adventures and paperboys come to Turnage stage
Henry, Beezus, Ramona and Ribsy — if those names are familiar, a visit to a Turnage Theatre matinee should be in the near future.
East Carolina University’s Storybook Theatre will present “Henry and Ramona” at 2 p.m. on Feb. 22, a play based on Newberry Award-winning author Beverly Cleary’s beloved books about the small-town, big adventures of Henry Higgins, his best friend, Beezus Quimby, Beezus’ little sister, Ramona, and Henry’s rascally pet dog, Ribsy. The adaptation takes scenes from each of the series’ books and melds them into a single story, according to Patch Clark, ECU professor and coordinator of theatre education/theatre for youth for the School of Theatre and Dance.
“It’s a great gathering of all the wonderful adventures of growing up in a town and trying to grow up to become a bona fide paper delivery boy, which was a big deal back then — it was a real honor and responsibility,” Clark said.
Clark said even if an audience member is not familiar with the books and characters, they’ll still resonate with anyone who grew up in a small town.
“They’re characters that you recognize every day from your own life,” Clark said. “It’s really interesting it’s what we knew about life in small-town America, and delivering newspapers and having a celebration for each of the seasons — it’s very Washington.”
Indeed, it’s so Washington, that a recent column in the Washington Daily News by Harold Robinson Jr. was copied and handed out to the cast with a note reading, “Make sure to read it and see you all at rehearsal tonight.” The column, “The work that went in to being a paperboy,” became a character-study resource for the young actors, according to Clark.
“I went, ‘Wow, this is amazing,’ and we sent that out to all our cast members, and they had a good time reading that. A lot of students today have never delivered papers — but their fathers did. A lot of their fathers said they want to come see the show because they remember delivering papers,” Clark said.
On the production side, Clark has been collecting, and has enlisted her neighbors to collect, issues of the Washington Daily News to use in the play and has instructed cast members to practice their newspaper throwing.
“We’ve been rolling them up and putting rubber bands on them,” Clark laughed. “I’ve told my actors, ‘The one assignment you have every day is just to toss a newspaper every day at my office door.’ We’re hoping they land just right on stage when they’re tossing them back and forth.”
In addition to the WDN’s onstage presence, backstage, Washington native and Chocowinity Middle School attendee is setting the scene. Anna Eagleston, now a junior majoring in theatre for youth and minoring in production, is the scenic designer for “Henry and Ramona.”
While the play also will be performed at Wright Auditorium in Greenville as part of ECU’s Family Fare series, Clark said performing at the Turnage puts the play in the ideal environment. Tickets for the performance are $5 cash or $7 with card, and after the show the cast will hold a “meet and greet” with all audience members.
Clark said Robinson — as the writer of a source of inspiration for “Henry and Ramona” actors — is invited.
“We would love to have him come and be our guest,” Clark said.
The Turnage Theatre is located at 150 W. Main St. in Washington. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit www.artsofthepamlico.org.