“It’s what I always write about — what it is that makes a child move from childhood to adulthood. It’s when a child starts to say, ‘This is my decision. I make this call.’ It’s the message a child has to get — that there’s a moment when you have to become your own person.” Gary D. Schmidt, author of the Newbery Honor book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
The Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis has brought this story to life through the creative direction of Peter C. Brosius, playwright Cheryl L. West, and an outstanding cast and crew.
(Pictures provided by the Children's Theatre Company, by Dan Norman)
Above all this is a story about friendship and finding your own way in this world. Who hasn't felt left out at one time or another, that you didn't quite fit in? Maybe you were new to a community like Turner is in this story. Maybe you're not the of the "proper" background or cultural heritage. Maybe you've lived somewhere all your life, but never quite felt like you belonged because you didn't go along with how people seemed to behave towards one another.
It takes a great deal of courage to be a stand out in a community that enforces conformity and pushes away certain types of people. The playwright, Cheryl L. West, gives voice to that bold personality. Turner and Lizzie are talking with her grandpa, the Reverend Griffin. She is responding to the announcement that all the inhabitants of Malaga Island must leave, find somewhere else to live. Lizzie questions Turner by saying, "Why are your people so mean?" The Reverend Griffin steps in and says, "Turner is his own people. He's not responsible for the meanness and actions of those around him." (This is a close paraphrase, I hope. I don't have the text in front of me.)
The story of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy shows us how important it is to come to a place in our lives where we don't care about being accepted by the mean and domineering, but to be our own person, to stand up for a friend, to do good whenever and wherever possible, and to believe that we can make a difference.
What happened on Malaga Island in 1912 was senseless and cruel. It was spurred by greed and racial prejudice. The author Gary D. Schmidt brought this dark piece of history to light through his novel. He gave an otherwise unknown girl a story, a friend, and a spirit that lives on past the destruction of her home and culture.
I checked out the audiobook from our local library and shared it with Ben and Matt, who are 12 and 10. They accompanied me and their mom Krista to the show. At intermission they looked at each other and said, "This is even better than the book." They told their grandparents that it was amazing and that they should go see it. Of course, I wanted the ending to be different, as I do when I watch Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, and The Diary of Anne Frank. But, you can't rewrite history. All you can do is make a difference in the present and a positive influence on the future.
Although I know that Traci Allen, who plays Lizzie, is an adult, I was thoroughly convinced that she was a spirited 13-year-old girl who embraced both life and death, believing that is how you truly live. She helped Turner deal with loss in his own life. When she sang Shall We Gather at the River and My Lord, What a Morning, I got tears in my eyes. When the true devastation of this culture was revealed, I wept.
Writers and artist, keep sharing stories, painting pictures, and making music. Bring light to the darkness and hope to the hurting. We do make a difference.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy is playing at the Children's Theatre Company in Minneapolis through April 8. Be part of this debut audience and help the story live on. CTC is running a special on tickets purchased on Sunday, as well as group rates and school discounts. Click above to go to their website. They also have a study guide and additional information on their website.
Journaling Prompt: Have you ever been moved to tears by a performance, book, music, or work of art? Write about it and share it with someone.