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Posted by Lois Lowry
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on Wednesday, 18 June 2008 in Uncategorized

Coming back to my temporary apartment in Greenwich Village last night after the play rehearsal, I passed a sports bar that was open to the street...inside everyone was watching the Celtics/Lakers game; I was able to stop and see that the good guys were ahead. I was too tired to stay up for the end of the game but in the morning there was a text message on my cell from my son:  YES!  it said; so I knew the Celtics had won.


Today I had to go up to the NPR studios on 42nd Street to tape an interview for All Things Considered about "The Willoughbys"...odd to shift gears that way, since I have been thinking "Gossamer" all week.  I took the bus back to Greenwich Village and clicked this photo at 31st Street...



Willoughbys How weird is THAT?!


The rehearsals for the play continue to go well, and you might enjoy reading the blog at the Oregon Childrens Theater website, where Stan Foote, the director, who is here, is blogging about the experience, as is his intern, Olivia, who is also here.

http://octc.org/mublog/

Night before last, at rehearsal, Stan had the actors do scenes out of sequence in order to follow the trajectory of individual characters, which enabled me to see their development...their journeys, as it were...or lack thereof!...and then to re-write in order to delineate their growth.  The boy's mother, portrayed in three separate monologues, in each of which she is talking on the telephone, was at first too quickly re-habbed, too soon happy and successful. Even though as reader or audience, we want that for her...still it wouldn't happen that perfectly and neatly. Rewritten (and incidentally beautifully performed by actor Lisa Vasfeilo) she now is someone who is realistically moving forward slowly, sometimes stumbling, very vulnerable.

A dog, Toby, is an important character in both book and play. During this workshop, the actor, Alex Siriani, who plays Most Ancient, doubles as Toby and is a lively and appealing mutt...he's going to need kneepads to do the role!  I had wondered, originally, how theaters would present the dog. Stan says that he will use an actor, as he is doing here. Jeff, the director in Milwaukee, is thinking: puppet.  No, not a Punch-and-Judy type, but a sophisticated puppet attached to a human...it could work well.  Such is the magic of theater.

Last night's rehearsal entered into that magical realm, where the script, the writing, is not at all as important as the staging. Stan worked with the actors on the nightmare scenes.  Much of that, in the real production, will be enhanced by lighting and by sound, and that isn't available to us here for the final staged reading. But he and the actors are together choreographing the nightmares and creating their own sound effects; singing that begins in a traditional way and then becomes distorted and frightening, for example; body movement that slows and jerks and halts.

Here is Stan in his baseball cap, working with the actors who are on the stage. In the red blouse is Teresa Fisher, who plays The Woman, and who tells me she has a background as a social worker and play therapist...so she really knows what this little boy (John, in the play; there he is, over Stan's left shoulder, being played by Brian Mahoney) is going through.

Stan and cast
I'm not sure what Stan will work on tonight...maybe more on the nightmares. In any case, whatever it is, it will be fascinating for me to watch him at work. Stan has a great way with actors, encouraging them, teaching them...liking them, understanding what they need from him, and letting them loose when he knows what they have on their own.

Yay Celtics. Yay Stan. Yay New York.
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Comments

Guest
Ellen B. Monday, 29 November 1999

Dear me. I hope that boy never reads Dickens.
One quibble: If the writer didn't have the courage to sign her name, I'm not sure she deserves even this much attention.

Guest
liz Monday, 29 November 1999

I just had to comment after reading that letter. My son, who is now 12 1/2, read "The Giver" when he was 10, not for a school assignment, but on the recommendation of his (excellent) school librarian. As soon as he finished, I read it too. The story was deeply meaningful to both of us -- rich on so many levels, metaphorically but also as an engrossing page-turner. While it is legitimate to comment that some stories are too scary for some particular kids, I really feel sad for this letter-writer and her children. She seems to want to control the world in some impossible way for them, to make it safe and pretty... Anyway, I wanted to thank you for what you do, which is to write intelligent books for kids and adults that never come close to patronizing their readers.

Guest
GirlwiththeBraids Monday, 29 November 1999

I read The Giver when I was that boy's age. It was one of my favorites and it still is. It wasn't "sickening", it was imaginative and I'm sure it would have been difficult to write. Now at 19 years old, I bet that boy is very embarressed that his mother wrote such letter.

Guest
Dana Monday, 29 November 1999

So this post comes at perfect time for me. As I was buying gifts for the 9 year old twin girls I nanny for, I asked many people about The Giver (one of my favorite books of all time). Do you think it is age appropriate I asked many? It is mostly in young adult sections at the bookstores. I had some varied responses. But the best came from a mother standing near by when I asked one of the workers at the store. She responded with something very similar to the above email. She was very unhappy with her 5th grader being required to read it for class and said it was too scary for kids that young. But as I looked into her hand I couldn't help but chuckle because she was holding a Harry Potter series no doubt for her fifth grader given away by her reaction of bowing her head and walking away. There are days when I can not believe it is almost the year 2009 and people are still so closed minded but are so open to going along with the crowd. So in short along with my other all time favorite book, Tuck Everlasting, I bought the girls The Giver!!

Guest
Kaylee Monday, 29 November 1999

Okay, yes, the society presented in _The Giver_ is twisted. And it's because this book inspires strong emotions, it never leaves us. That's why it's a classic.

Guest
Kumar Monday, 29 November 1999

That email really makes me angry. I read The Giver for the first time four years ago, when I was eleven years old myself. The powerful emotions that it induced in me shocked even myself. Okay, so the society described in the book may be "sickening and twisted", but isn't that what our protagonist decides to fight against? This parent is just like those who try to ban Harry Potter, The Perks of Being a Wallflower or The Lord of the Flies from libraries. They are the ones who are shallow; they're the ones who don't really understand what these books are about.

Guest
sandi Monday, 29 November 1999

I'm still trying to figure out what from the story gave the kid nightmares...
When I taught 5th grade, I read The Giver with my students. I have had several tell me it is one of their favorites and have read it several times since. Now as a 7th grade math teacher (with a fantastic classroom library, I might add) I recommend this book often.

Guest
Jennifer Elliott Monday, 29 November 1999

How awful for someone to write that email to you! As a teacher myself, I can say that you can never make every student or parent happy when it comes to books. I might add, though, that this book has enticed even my "non-readers" or "book haters" and made them want to read again.
I had a grandmother once call me after flipping to a random page in The Giver, saying that she could not believe I was promoting a book that was pro-infanticide. I assured her that was not the case at all-- in fact, that it was completely opposite. I told her to read the book from front to back and then call me if she still had a problem. Of course, I didn't hear from her again.
I agree with another blog responder. Yes, this mother is trying to keep her child "safe" and paint a picture of a society where everyone is happy and never gets hurt, etc.--exactly as the government of The Giver's society did. And... eventually, he, too, will learn that the world is not as perfect as he first thought it was.
After the chapter where Jonas has watched the release of the twin, I ask for my students' reactions. Of course, they are shocked. I then say, "You are shocked at that, but there are things in our own world-- perhaps even in our own society-- past and present that bare shocking similarities to this." I then have them brainstorm in groups, coming up with instances where innocent human beings are killed or where language is used to cover up what is really taking place. I've heard some great responses: the Holocaust, the death penalty (for those later declared innocent), abortion, euthanasia, terrorist attacks, etc. We discuss how often we tend to ignore it if it doesn't affect us directly (and since we are all connected- it really does affect us). And then we discuss how, though they may not be able to stop things like terrorist attacks, there are things they can do on their own level that will, somehow, have a positive effect on the world. They can stand up for another child who is being victimized by a bully, they can donate money or time to help those in need during the holidays or anytime of the year, etc.
It really does shock me that some parents are so unaware of what a great book this is and what wonderful life lessons it can teach children.

Guest
Deborah Monday, 29 November 1999

First of all, in defense of your book, I regularly assign The Giver to my 6th-grade students and every last one has been touched by it and loved it. What a sad thing to deprive this child of such a wonderful piece of literature!
I just hope that this kid doesn't ever have to read Tuck Everlasting, Charlotte's Web, Bridge to Terabithia, Where the Red Fern Grows, Jacob Have I Loved, House of the Scorpion, Higher Power of Lucky, or The Devil's Arithmetic, due to the kidnapping, manslaughter, death, drug-dealing, alcoholism, and genocide contained therein. Though I suppose A Wrinkle in Time is ok, unless he's scared by weird, furry space-creatures, which he probably is, so I guess that's out too. . .
In any case, don't let it get to you. The Giver is an amazing book, and that's all there is to it.

Guest
Jes Monday, 29 November 1999

As an eighth grade teacher who teaches The Giver yearly, I sometimes encounter those parents in the flesh (scary, I know). When I ask them why, they come up with some sort of answer - the Stirrings, the bringing up of reproduction, etc. These are almost always the same parents who won't let their kids read Holocaust literature but will gladly hand them the remote or keyboard to navigate their way isolated throughout the universe. For the life of me, I can't understand why a parent who objects to the material their child is reading - whatever that may be - will not take a moment and explain to the child why the parent finds it inappropriate. Worse yet, I don't know why they think that a book inappropriate for their child as deemed by their religion/personal values also means that it is entirely inappropriate for ALL. But, every society has it's dissenters, right?

Guest
Haddayr Monday, 29 November 1999

It's very, very hard for me to take people that dumb very seriously. I hope she didn't upset you too much.

Guest
Betty Birney Monday, 29 November 1999

I find it ironic that the mother is trying to remove anything unpleasant (or thought-provoking) from her child's life. You illustrated the consequences of such behavior in The Giver. Powerful writing stirs up powerful emotions. If some people can't handle that, so be it. Even very young children feel the evil and injustice of society and feel powerless to do anything about it - even more so if their parents don't allow them the tools to think and grow and make intelligent decisions.

Guest
ivy alvarado Monday, 29 November 1999

i really really love your book NUMBER THE STARS and i really got inspired by what you wrote and i just want you to write me a book of a broken love and how that girl has a hard life every step of the way but she falls in love with a boy that she still cant trust thank you if you can and xoxo ur my hero

Guest
Annie Monday, 29 November 1999

I have no idea what this parent might find "sickening" or "twisted." Certainly, 'The Giver' deals with serious issues, but everything is handled with sensitivity and care. (Also, has this boy only encountered books about happy puppies so far?) I read 'The Giver' when I was 12 and adored it, even though it left me with lots of questions about life and society. My mom read it along with me and loved it, too. It's still a favorite for me. I hope this kid grows up to accept more literature; otherwise he's in for a shock when he gets to high school.

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