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MailTribune.com
  • Coming up with a new 'Wrinkle'

  • When the Oregon Shakespeare Festival commissioned writer/director Tracy Young to fashion Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 classic novel, "A Wrinkle in Time," into a theatrical production, Young knew she wanted to capture the book's fantastical essence but also make it a play that could stand on its own.
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    • 'A Wrinkle in Time'
      Author: Madeleine L'Engle
      Adaptation: Tracy Young
      Director: Tracy Young
      Runs: Through Nov. 1 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre
      Tickets: Visit www.osfashland.org or call 541-482-4331
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      'A Wrinkle in Time'
      Author: Madeleine L'Engle

      Adaptation: Tracy Young

      Director: Tracy Young

      Runs: Through Nov. 1 in the Angus Bowmer Theatre

      Tickets: Visit www.osfashland.org or call 541-482-4331
  • When the Oregon Shakespeare Festival commissioned writer/director Tracy Young to fashion Madeleine L'Engle's 1962 classic novel, "A Wrinkle in Time," into a theatrical production, Young knew she wanted to capture the book's fantastical essence but also make it a play that could stand on its own.
    In L'Engle's science fiction fantasy, teenage Meg, her 5-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, and a teenage friend, Calvin, travel through time and space to other planets in search of Meg and Charles Wallace's missing father. The children use the "tesseract," a fifth dimension that dramatically compresses time and space — a wrinkle in time — to find their father and conquer the evil power holding him in thrall.
    "'A Wrinkle in Time' truly and deeply touches people," Young says. "When I told people about the commission, I was struck by how many said it was their favorite book. I knew I had to convey that intense emotional reaction and very personal memories of the book's readers."
    L'Engle meticulously details descriptions of these faraway worlds and their inhabitants, but their visualization comes from the imagination of the reader. In adapting the novel to the stage, Young and scenic designer Christopher Acebo wisely chose "less is more," with minimal sets and scenery — though hardly minimal special effects — and used readings from L'Engle's actual narration as the backbone of the action.
    "I see the 'tesseract' as a metaphor for the imagination," Young says. "Our imagination allows us to travel across incredible boundaries."
    Young has a deft touch with fantasy and whimsy.
    At OSF, she co-directed and co-adapted "Medea/ Macbeth/ Cinderella" in the 2012 season, co-adapted and directed "The Imaginary Invalid" in 2011 and co-adapted "The Servant of Two Masters" in 2009. She also directed "Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner" in 2008.
    "What makes 'A Wrinkle in Time' wonderful is the author's voice. L'Engle's commentary is friendly and humorous as well as descriptive," Young says. "I wanted to honor the way L'Engle says what she says."
    Young uses L'Engle's narrative as a touchstone for people who already know the book, a way to connect with their memories. She used different readers onstage to give the narration different voices.
    "I wanted the dialogue to echo L'Engle's narrative style, the feel of the language and I wanted the insertions of narration to be virtually seamless," she says.
    In the OSF production, the child characters are played by adults. Young says there was much discussion about this, but, ultimately, she wanted the complexity and maturity that adult actors could bring to their characterizations.
    "Building a theatrical persona is technically demanding and challenging," says Young. "I was lucky to find the right OSF actors. The three principal actors have a special chemistry between themselves. The cast is not afraid to get improvisational, to be spontaneous and adventurous. There is a sense of play, like kids."
    Young and Acebo made the decision to use everyday household items to fashion the props. Lynn Jeffries designed the life-size puppets and Shawn Sagady created visual projections, creating a sense of time and place.
    For Young, creating theater from "A Wrinkle in Time" became a way of introducing the book to a new generation. "But I also wanted the play to be fresh and surprising," says Young. "I want it to be an exciting piece of theater.
    "Most of all, the book means so much to so many people," says Young. "I wanted to capture why it still matters to people."
    Roberta Kent is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach her at rbkent@mind.net.
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