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on Tuesday, 23 September 2008 in Uncategorized

Actors present pain of abused child captivatingly in “Gossamer”

By ELAINE SCHMIDT
Special to the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Sept. 22, 2008

Dreams, not all of them sweet, are at center stage in the First Stage Children’s Theater production of “Gossamer,” which opened this weekend.

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Based on Lois Lowry's book of the same name, and created by the author for First Stage and the Oregon Children's Theater, the play deals frankly with the pain of an abused child.

"Gossamer" focuses on a group of benevolent beings that bestow pleasant dreams upon humans. They're training their newest member, Littlest.

Littlest's first assignment is a young boy whose abusive father has left him with a broken arm, a violent view of the world and tremendous anger. The boy is placed in foster care with an elderly woman while his mother pieces her life together and makes a new home for him.

As Littlest struggles to find happy memories in the boy upon which to build pleasant, comforting dreams, she learns to fear and fight Sinisteeds, the creatures that inflict nightmares.

Geared by First Stage to "adults, teens and children ages nine and up," "Gossamer" is a dark, honest look at the heartbreaking impact that an abusive parent has on a child. It's also, in the end, a story about the redemptive powers of hope, compassion and love.

The production, directed by Jeff Frank, offers an unflinching delivery of the harshness of the boy's story, tempered by compassionate surrounding characters. Frank and the actors make creative use of puppets and masks throughout the play.

Children's roles in First Stage shows are double cast. Clarise White (Day cast) is completely captivating in the title role, creating an earnest, big-hearted character. Mark Metcalf, as Thin Elderly, is a gentle, wise, endlessly patient mentor to Gossamer.

Flora Coker gives a gentle-spirited delivery of the elderly woman who takes the boy into her home. Richard Heim (Day cast) crafts a wrenchingly believable performance as John, the abused boy.

A strong adult ensemble of Brian J. Gill, Richard Halverson, Courtney Jones and Laura Nicholas, and an equally polished children's Day cast of Alexis Block, Lauren Wimmer and Eric Schable supports them. Block's puppet work with Toby, the pet dog, is delightful.

The production's pacing lags a bit in scenes between the boy and the elderly woman and suffers in those same scenes from segments of inaudible dialogue. Although Bruce Brockman's simple, multilevel set serves the story well, action on the lowest level finds the youngest audience members struggling to see the actors.

FSCT-Gossamer-(001)

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Comments

Guest
Nicholas Monday, 29 November 1999

I would have to agree with you - the true reason I read the blogs I do, yours included, is to catch this snapshot of how other people structure and go about their lives. I love those posts that, like this one, let me see who people are as they are defined by their spaces. It makes me think of new ways to fashion my own life, which is always a good thing.

Guest
Teri Monday, 29 November 1999

I just spent 30 minutes studying the pictures of your desk. I'm really not a stalker, honest. It is, however, the humanity of an author that intrigues me. I'm really fascinated by the fact that your brown map color is sharp. Mine are never sharp because I only sharpen them right before I use them.
Maybe if I quit worrying about your map color and got back to writing, I might accomplish something.

Guest
Ronni Monday, 29 November 1999

I love this! And I love when you post regular life stuff. :)
I just picked up an autographed copy of The Giver for me, and an autographed copy of Anastasia Krupnik for my husband from Anderson's in IL. We're both thrilled!
I look forward to more photographic glimpses into your life, and that includes photos of your lunch! ;)

Guest
Portia Pennington Monday, 29 November 1999

Who knows, really, why we like these little glimpses into real writers' lives, but we do! Thanks for sharing your lovely, messy, inspirational desk and your cozy living room complete with bookshelves and reading chairs!

Guest
Robin Monday, 29 November 1999

I've always loved photographs of writer's workspaces! They really are fascinating glimpses. What a lovely knitting project in the basket! I'm very curious to know what it is going to be, with all those different needles?

Guest
Lois Lowry Monday, 29 November 1999

Oh, sigh: the knitting project. It's a sweater. I knit sweaters from the neck down, on four needles, so that I don't have to sew them together afterward. (Then you pick up the sleeves, and do them on four needles as well. What is poking out and visible is, I think, half a sleeve).

Guest
Kelsey Monday, 29 November 1999

I love these type of posts the most - the glimpses into every day life. I don't understand when people complain about what others are doing on their blogs. If I don't like the content of a blog I just don't read it - seems simple enough!
I'm envious of your bookshelves! I am always trying to figure out ways to cram more books into our house - we could use an entire study full of bookshelves.

Guest
Laura Monday, 29 November 1999

A friend of mine, a director of amateur theatre, took the backstage tour at the Royal Shakespeare company. Most of the people on the tour were fascinated by the stage machinery, but she loved the things that made her feel close to the company. "Look, they have Kleenex! We have Kleenex..." So thank you for allowing us a glimpse of your desk. We also have manila folders and clutter and are afraid of our taxes.
I don't know about other people, but the reason I read blogs is that in the morning I turn my computer on hoping for e-mail, and sometimes there isn't any. So--with my morning coffee--I go looking for a friend online. A fellow writer makes a good friend, early in the morning. And while I'm on the subject, there are ways of reporting one's lunch that are tedious, and there are ways of talking about lunch that show an appreciation of the ordinary wonders that surround us on all sides.

Guest
Chris Monday, 29 November 1999

I enjoy reading your blog because I enjoy your work (as do my students). Simple as that.
Did you see the Rolling Stone picture of Bruce Springsteen's work area? Very cool.
Personally, I've enjoyed reading Hunter S. Thompson's collected letters.

Guest
Kelly Inman Monday, 29 November 1999

I love you, Lois Lowry! Today you really made me smile as you identified all of the reasons I login often and read your blog. Add to your reasons, I also check (a) to see if you will be appearing anywhere nearby; I attended your speaking program at Rhode Island College, ASTAL, years ago and was moved to tears as you discussed the death of your sister and other life events, as well as writing process, etc. I wouldn't want to miss an appearance! And (b) to read your blog, which I so often enjoy, both for all of your reasons listed, and because, I guess, I am always looking for insight into how to live life. Trying to find that from someone whose work I greatly admire makes sense, I think. Thank you for sharing the pictures! Just enough to satisify my prurient curiosity for today.

Guest
Betty Birney Monday, 29 November 1999

Thanks for the peek at your desk. I consider myself a tidy person but when I'm writing, my desk gets really messy. If you don't have a copy of Jill Krementz's book of photos tited The Writer's Desk, by all means find one. Wonderful details that are great for literary peeping Toms. It's worth it just to see the cover photo of Eudora Welty typing in her bedroom, neatly dressed but seemingly unaware of her unnmade bed.

Guest
Annie DC Monday, 29 November 1999

I haven't visited in a while, but hit the motherlode! I love to see into people's lives. I guess that's why I photograph the things we do, see and use in Japan for my blog, Here and There Japan.org. I don't do house pictures as it is toooo messy. You have wonderful rooms and gradens.
I miss collections of letters and love to read biographies. I would love to hear your memories about Japan. If in a book or an interview for our SCBWI newsletter Carp Tales.

Guest
Louisa O Monday, 29 November 1999

I love the pictures of your desk! I'm not a huge writer, (fanatic reader actually) but when I do write, I get some inspiration on whats near my working space. (Hey look! A purple pen! My main character's favorite color will be purple)

Guest
o.jimenez Monday, 29 November 1999

When I was taking Art classes at the Corcoran in DC, I'd go to its library and check out books about Artist's Studios. The librarian once said to me "this is not going to help you become an artist." Maybe it didn't. Nevertheless, by studying the photos of the artists' studios, and looking a the messy floors, with half-used tubes of paint, canvases facing walls and sketches pinned to walls (Picasso), boulders, and fragments of stone (Brancusi) Piles and piles of paint tubes and cans in a dimly lighted room (Francis Bacon) gave me a certain insight into the artist's mind...and inspired me to keep going.
There is a book titled "How I Write, The Secret Lives of Authors" edited by Dan Crowe, which I like to look at every-now-and-then.
It was based on a question asked by the editor to writers to satisfy his curiosity about what keeps writers going, What gets them high, What gets them low, and What they do all day. The letter he sent said:
"Can you think for a minute about which object, picture, or document in your study reveals most about the relationship between living and writing, and then send it to us?"
To his surprise, (and my delight) he got replies. Over sixty of these are in the book, with photos and blurbs by the authors. One of my favorites is by Neil LaBute his submission: "In the Wee Small Hours" by Frank Sinatra. "I'm a big believer in writing only when the mood hits me, when inspiration comes right up and kicks my ass back into a chair and says, 'Get to it!"..."It's not just the music--which absolutely takes my breath away--but even the cover art can do the trick: Frank, with a trademark fedora tilted back on his head and holding a burning cigarette, looking down and forlorn as a Hopper-esque landscape spreads itself out behind him....If St. Francis can feel a little bummed at times, then all is right with the world."

Guest
Jack Huynh Monday, 29 November 1999

The Giver is a greaqt book i thought it woulkd be boring at first then when i started reading it. It made me relized that the book is about Life

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