Marcella Crowson is the Associate Artistic Director at OCT and has directed many OCT shows, including last season's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. This season she is directing another Kate DiCamillio adaptation, Flora & Ulysses. We asked her to weigh in on what she's most excited about for this show, what makes it unique, and much more!
Q: What are you most looking forward to about directing this show?
A: For starters, I was a big fan of Kate DiCamillo even before I had the joy of directing The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane last season. Her stories are populated with such marvelous, complicated characters, often living ordinary lives until they are confronted with rather extraordinary circumstances (and a bit of magic). Flora & Ulysses is certainly no exception. Flora has such depth and strength, but has closed down the part of her that might dare to hope or dream. Her father, George Buckman, is grappling with the challenge of conquering his own loneliness so he can be present and solid for his extraordinary daughter. And William Spiver, Flora's new friend, is struggling to accept how his own family has changed, and his place within it. And that's to say nothing of Ulysses! What Kate DiCamillo does so beautifully is balance humor and heart and adventure so deftly. She can, in one stroke, put a little crack in your heart, mend it back again, and dress it with a Superman bandaid. It's pure joy bringing such great stories to life onstage.
Q: What do you think makes this story so unique?
A: Oddly enough, it's not that there's a squirrel superhero at the center of it. It's also not particularly unique that a superhero comes from a very humble beginning—most of them do. I think what's unique about this story, about the heroes that emerge (Ulysses is not alone, after all), is that their particular brand of heroism doesn't come from external sources, but from other people's faith in them. There are no comets from outer space or bites from radioactive bunnies. There are just real people, with their own hardships and loneliness, being there for one another, rising to the occasion, acting with courage and love and profound strength.
Q: Can you tell us about the projections that will be used in the play?
A: The interesting thing about John Glore's adaptation is that projections are actually a scripted element. In many cases a director or designer may initiate the idea of using projections as a scenic device. In this case, the projections serve as a little window into the thoughts of the characters, as well as a means of visually fleshing out locations and action. Traditionally, we'd begin working with the projections when we move into the theater for final rehearsals; in this case we expect to integrate them into the rehearsal process much earlier, because the timing, as it relates to dialogue (in some cases, punchlines) is so critical.
Q: Anything else you think is important to know about the show?
A: First, I think sometimes people look at the protagonist of a story and think, "That's a girl's story," or "That's a boy's story," or even "That's a kid's story." I happen to think they're mostly wrong when they make those assumptions. But they'd be especially wrong to assign a label of that ilk to Flora & Ulysses. This is a story for everyone. There's not a person (or a creature) that doesn't go on a miraculous journey.
And finally, whether before or after the show, I hope everyone gets a copy of the book and reads it. John Glore has done a lovely job of adapting the story for the stage, but it's impossible to include every morsel. The illustrations alone, by K.G. Campbell, are magnificent! I'm still discovering details that I didn't notice on the first (or 15th) reading.
Flora & Ulysses runs February 25—March 26 at the Winningstad Theatre. For tickets and more info, click here.