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Local playwright taking ‘Velveteen Rabbit’ to NYC festival

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Photo from the December 2010 performances of 'The Velveteen Rabbit" at the Penobscot Theatre Company Photo from the December 2010 performances of 'The Velveteen Rabbit" at the Penobscot Theatre Company M. Weston Photography
Original adaptation to appear at inaugural NY Children’s Theatre Festival
BANGOR - When I saw Penobscot Theatre Company’s production of “The Velveteen Rabbit” a couple of years ago, I came away very impressed. Playwright Andrew Frodahl - who also happens to be PTC’s technical director - had managed to adapt a beloved story respectfully while still making it very much his own. It was a wonderful production of an excellent script. Like I said - impressive.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought so. Frodahl’s script has been selected for production at the inaugural New York Children’s Theatre Festival, one of only three to receive a slot. The show will hit the stage at the end of the festival, running the first weekend in May.

Of course, it took a whole lot of work to get there.

“I started writing in the early summer of 2010,” Frodahl said. “Scott [Levy] wanted to do a version of ‘Velveteen Rabbit,’ but none of the adaptations fit what we wanted to do. He was thinking about puppets playing the toys, but when he couldn’t find that, I decided to adapt it myself.”

Frodahl wasn’t going in blind, though. He already knew - and loved - the story.

“’Velveteen Rabbit’ was one of my favorite books as a kid,” he said. “It’s a very short book with lots of holes. I wanted to know more about the toys. I wanted to bring the doctor into the story more and bring it all full circle with a different spin.

“I like to have that ‘Aha!’ moment.”

Frodahl brings many talents to the theatrical arena. Not only does he run the show technically at the Bangor Opera House, but he also has a wealth of puppetry experience (he assisted with the puppet work in UMaine’s ‘Avenue Q,’ for instance) and a real talent with a pen. Besides ‘Velveteen,’ Frodahl has another piece called ‘The Blueberry Balladeer’ that is set to be performed as part of PTC’s youth theater program.

“Writing is why I originally wanted to do theater,” said Frodahl. “Writing for kids, I wanted everyone to get something out of the experience, no matter if they’re four or 65.”

So what led him to take a shot at this particular festival?

“[Managing Director] Marcie Bramucci forwarded the link to me and said I should submit something,” he said. “It was a new festival and I had the script already. So I made a few tweaks to the script and sent it off in November. They sent out the acceptance letters on January 15 and I found out the following Wednesday.”

The list of advisors for this festival is an impressive read. You’ve got a superfamous name like Rosie O’Donnell involved. Then you’ve got people like Cheryl Henson (President of The Jim Henson Foundation) and Thomas Schumacher (President of Disney Theatrical Group) - people to whom child-oriented programming is deeply important. There are some Broadway producers and stars in there as well. Oh, and Kevin Clash. You know, just the guy who created Elmo. These are heavy hitters. And from the thousands of submissions, only a scant few made the cut.

“There are three winners and each gets their own weekend,” Frodahl said. “Since ‘Blueberry Balladeer’ is up in that time frame, I requested the last weekend. Thankfully, they were very accommodating.”

It’s a vibrant time for the arts here in the greater Bangor area - there are lots of very talented people doing great and interesting things. Andy Frodahl is one of those talents. His script is a good one, and if there is any justice, this production will help him gain the attention he richly deserves.

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