Peoples Bank Theatre to Stage ‘My Father’s Dragon’ Dec. 9

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My Father’s Dragon is the unusual story of Elmer Elevator, told in brisk, evergreen prose by Ruth Stiles Gannett, who wrote the story while toiling through her early 20s after completing a degree in chemistry from Vassar College. The story tells the tale of Elmer’s adventures on Wild Island, where he outsmarts many and eventually saves a baby dragon. The book would go on to be translated in 14 different languages, and receive a nod from the annual Newberry Medal the year it was published, 1948.

On Saturday, December 9 at 7 p.m., the Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta will present the Enchantment Theatre Company’s production of the dramatized story. Tickets are $16 to $28, and available now. The Enchantment Theatre Company is based out of Philadelphia, and is committed to encouraging children to “dream, explore, think, and connect through imaginative story telling onstage and in the classroom.”

Landis Smith, one of the artistic directors for the company, said that he and his wife and co-artistic director, Jennifer Blatchley Smith, were given the opportunity to visit the book’s author – who is still alive and well at the age of 94.

“The publisher of the book did not have the dramatic rights of the book, so they gave us the contact information for the author’s youngest daughter,” said Smith in a phone interview with WOUB. “It was very interesting to visit her in her Victorian yellow farmhouse – and then she was able to make it to the show’s opening night in Itchaca at the State Theater.”

The company’s take on the classic book is based off of Elmer’s adventures in the production’s namesake and in its direct sequel, Elmer and the Dragon.

“I’m quite pleased with the production,” said Smith, who noted that it involves actors operating large puppets, utilizing animated projections, and more. “I’m an artistic director and producer, and it’s my job to figure out how to make the dramatized version of the story happen onstage. I’m very pleased with this because I think that it simply and imaginatively tells the story.”

The company’s tour of the production will run through spring 2018 throughout the country, involving over 125 schools’ participation in a collaborative study conducted by the company’s longtime presenting partners at Purdue University. The study will examine the impact of a live performance on a student’s literacy skills, and is being headed by Amanda Mayes, Ph.D., Manager of Education at Purdue.

“In the current climate, where they’re talking about cutting funding for the arts, and where some are questioning if the arts are really necessary to education, this could be a very important study,” said Smith.