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A modern heroine, Junie B. comes to Radford University’s Theatre for Young Audiences
From the stalwart Joan of Arc to the keen Portia, dramatic heroines run the gamut from the lowly to the sublime. And Junie B. Jones, spunky first-grader known for her signature purple glasses, fits right into this grand company. Audiences of Radford University’s Theatre for Young Audiences’ production of “Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells,” will see the beloved Junie B. and all her friends spring vividly to life when the play opens at Pridemore Playhouse in early December.
Though Junie B. herself may not seem very Shakespearian, director and assistant professor of Theatre, Molly Hood, believes Theatre for Young Audiences is closer to the Bard’s work than one might think. Hood’s theatrical specialty is Shakespeare.
Written by Allison Gregory and based on Barbara Park’s wildly popular Junie B. Jones book series, the play takes place in an elementary school classroom. It is the holiday season, but the usual joy is threatened by Junie B.’s rival, Tattletale May, who seems determined to ruin all of Junie B.’s fun. When their teacher, Mr. Scary, has the class draw names for a Secret Santa gift party, Junie B. gets stuck with May’s name and Junie B. sees the perfect chance to give May exactly what she deserves.
All the classical theatre elements are here: compelling characters, moral conflict, and the mixture of drama and comedy.
“When working with Shakespeare, you have to make the text come alive for a modern audience and work to communicate not only meaning, but character intent,” Hood said. “The same skill set applies to Theatre for Young Audiences. You are often performing for young people who don’t have fully developed language skills yet, so the goals are very similar.”
Another similarity between working with Shakespeare and this production of Junie B. is the interaction with the audience. Viewers play an important part in the presentation of Shakespeare’s works, and the same is true for Theatre for Young Audiences. In both cases, actors work hard to engage with the audience so they become part of the story.
Hood adds, “Shakespeare uses direct address in his plays, where the actor speaks directly to the audience.” Junie B. follows suit, bringing the audience into her confidence.
Most of all, Hood hopes that audiences for Junie B. arrive ready for a good time! Knowing that they will have concrete ideas about how the characters look, move and sound, Hood has worked carefully to strike a balance between maintaining the integrity of the characters from the book, and allowing the actors and designers to use their creativity to make the show their own.
Sophomore Theatre student Madeline Murchie-Beyma plays the rambunctious grade-schooler with a cast that includes Rebecca Haas as May and Shawn Carver as Mr. Scary. Other cast members are John Boelsche, Alex Espinosa, Maddy Von Fossen, Mac McMullen, Christopher Phillips, Jeremiah Smith and Megan Ward.
“Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” has two performances Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets are $8 for general admission; $4 for children; $6 for Radford University faculty and staff; and students with a Radford University IDs are free. Tickets are available at rutheatretickets.com, the week before the show at the Porterfield Box Office or by calling 540-831-5289. The Box Office is open from noon to 6 p.m. during show week.
Courtesy of the Department of Theatre