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A Wrinkle in Time: Dramaturgy

Wrinkle in Time show artThose who are familiar with all for One will know that since 2010 we have included notes in every program designed to enrich our audience’s understanding and enjoyment of our plays. These notes, loosely referred to as dramaturgy, may include, among other things: brief biography of original author or playwright, overview of the story and/or the time period, a timeline of historic events related to the play, and notes about our staging choices.

This blog was created in 2013 to serve as a repository of all the information we can’t cram in a page or two of the printed program. In this case, there is so much information readily available online about this book, we are choosing to limit our writing to a brief biography of L’Engle and a synopsis of the beginning of the book, along with some notes on our staging. After the play opens on April 28, we may include more production notes along with photos.

Here then is an only-slightly-expanded version of the Dramaturgy you will find in our program. Those of you who will attend get a chance to read it ahead of time, and in better light. 

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A brief author biography:

L'Engle picMadeleine L’Engle (1918 – 2007) was an American writer of over 60 books for adults and young adults. Her writing covered a variety of genre–including fiction, science fiction, poetry, books on writing, Christian meditations on Biblical characters, and several memoirs—and earned nearly two dozen honors, including the Newbery Medal, and National Religious Book awards.

Educated in American and Europe, and holding a degree from Smith College, L’Engle began her career writing novels in New York City while working in theater. She met her husband, Hugh Franklin while understudying a role in The Cherry Orchard. They married in 1946 and had two children, Josephine and Bion, later adopting Maria, the orphaned daughter of friends. In 1952 the family moved to a 200-year-old farmhouse in Connecticut, where they resurrected and ran a general store. Madeleine continued to write, though she was not making significant money at it.

book coverIn 1958, the family decided to return to New York City so that Hugh could return to the theater. They would first take an extended cross-country camping trip. On this trip, Madeleine (who had vowed to give up writing on her 40th birthday) had the idea for A Wrinkle in Time, her most famous book. (The three characters Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which were her initial thought. She had been reading a physics book at the time, and was enthralled by the idea of time and space travel.) She wrote the book and began submitting to publishers in 1960. It was rejected more than thirty times (numbers ranging from 26 to over 40 have been quoted by L’Engle, but it appears certain that there were dozens of rejections) before being accepted by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 1962. (She wrote about these struggles in her 1972 memoir, A Circle of Quiet.) The book was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1963, the highest honor awarded a children’s novel. L’Engle’s acceptance speech for that honor is now often included in editions of the book.

L’Engle went on to write four more sci-fi/fantasy books about members of the Murray and O’Keefe families (see synopsis below). Two of them won Newbery honors, a “runner up” prize in the Newbery competition. Her other young adult novels intersect these families’ lives, as well, though they more ‘realistic’ books.

Hugh Franklin died of cancer in 1986, and L’Engle wrote her memoir, Two-Part Invention, as a tribute to their happy forty-year marriage. L’Engle, a devout Anglican Christian, was a frequent lecturer and seminar leader on matters of faith and art until ill health prevented further travel or speaking around 2001. She died of natural causes just before her 89th birthday in 2007.

The story of A Wrinkle in Time begins:

Meg Murray, age 12, feels like a misfit at home and at school. Her beautiful and brilliant mother is a scientist. Her father, also a research scientist, has been away on a top-secret government project for so long that people are beginning to speculate that he has actually abandoned his family. Meg has 10-year-old twin brothers who play little part in this book (although they are featured in later stories about this family, which make up what is now called The Time Quintet). The youngest Murray sibling, Charles Wallace, is five, a genius and possesses a strong empathy for Meg which borders on mind-reading.

In the story’s opening chapter, Meg, Charles Wallace and Mrs. Murray are visited in the middle of a stormy night by Mrs. Whatsit, an eccentric and mysterious woman who implies she knows something about the missing Mr. Murray. In short order, Meg is introduced to Calvin O’Keefe, a boy several years ahead of her in school, as well as two friends of Mrs. Whatsit: Mrs. Which and Mrs. Who. With little warning, the three children are whisked away to another galaxy on a quest to find and save Mr. Murray, who has been imprisoned on a “dark planet”. Throughout the story, themes of darkness and light are used to underscore the battle to rescue Mr. Murray—and perhaps their own planet—from It, a mind-controlling being who has enslaved all of the planet Camazotz.

OK, no more spoilers. It is easy enough to find the full synopsis elsewhere online.

Bringing A Wrinkle in Time to life:

It is interesting to note that this book, continuously in print since its first publication, was not ever brought to the stage until this adaptation by James Sie, written in the late 1990s for Lifeline Theater in Chicago. Two other stage adaptations, by John Glore and Tracy Young, have been written since 2010. The book was made into a TV movie in 2003. (L’Engle, when asked about it, said, “I expected it to be bad, and it is.”) Walt Disney Pictures is currently in production of a new live feature film version which is scheduled for release in 2018.

The sheer scope of the story, which travels to multiple planets, includes three young protagonists, and references so many classical quotations (many in foreign languages), not to mention its religious themes, make it a daunting project to bring to stage or screen. Modern special effects and computer technology solves some of these problems on film, but not necessarily onstage.

In designing this production, guest director/production designer Jeff Salisbury (afO’s technical director and lighting designer) has taken a balanced approach between technical “magic” and theatricality. Our stark alley-style staging with very little by way of set or furniture, will allow the audience to use their imagination to create the landscapes of planets. Special care has been taken with lighting, sound effects creation, and video animation, to suggest some of the more unusual pieces of the story, including the space/time travel called “tessering” and the mind-controlling rhythms of IT. We hope you enjoy it!

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