Based on the novel by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Adapted for the stage by Laurie Smith Murphy
Directed by Liz Goulet Dubois and Laurie Murphy
November 10-12 and 17-19, 2017
“I want to hide because my life, if it were a clothesline, would be the one with a sweater dangling by one sleeve, a blanket dragging in the mud, and a sock, unpaired and alone, tumbling to the road with the wind at its heel.” – Cornelia Thornhill
Thus begins the story of 14-year-old Cornelia, a neglected teen who is dropped off by her look-away mother and “the boyfriend” at the falling-down farm of her great- aunt Agatha, whom the girl’s never met. The loving bond that grows between the young girl and the older woman creates a story of courage and resilience, and of finding your voice when no one will listen.
Tending to Grace was awarded the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award for its empathetic portrayal of a young girl who stutters. It lends itself well to teaching writing because of its lyrical prose and tender message.
“From the moment I read the book,” former teacher Laurie Murphy explains, “I knew my students would benefit from the beautiful figurative language.” Even after she left teaching to pursue writing, Murphy kept returning to the story. “I started to visualize it on the stage and I just knew it would make a stunning play.” Murphy has been involved with Swamp Meadow since its inception in 2003 when she was cast as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. But this is her first time directing, and her first time writing a play.
Murphy asked her friend, fellow thespian and writer/illustrator, Liz Goulet Dubois, to co-direct with her. Liz has written and directed for the stage in the past, and quickly jumped on board. “I am thrilled to be a part of bringing this story to life on the stage. The themes in it resonate more than ever, and now our audience will be able to connect with these characters in a very real way. Having the author, Kim, as a part of our team gives us reassurance that this show will be both true to the story, and adapted in a sensitive way.”
When Murphy began working on the script, she was surprised how well the story adapted, like it was tailor-made for the stage. The main character, Cornelia, stutters, but the novel is filled with inner-dialogue, and when Cornelia shares her innermost feelings to herself, she speaks fluently. My teacher is a look-away. I am a bookworm, a bibliophile, a passionate lover of books. “I’m hoping this technique works and that the audience understands this. I think they will.”
When Murphy brought the idea to the author, who is local to Foster, she was very excited. “It’s been such a thrilling experience to read the script and see how my novel is now told completely through dialogue,” said Fusco, who regularly visits classes and speaks to students who have read her novels. She visited Murphy’s third and fifth-grade classes many times over the years, and enjoys inspiring children to write. “I always hope my books make a difference in a child’s life,” she said.
Fusco’s newest novel, Chasing Augustus, will be published in September by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House, in the US, and by Faber & Faber, London. She will be available for Q+A sessions at select shows.
Make sure Tending to Grace is on your calendar.
- Auditions will be held August 11 + 12, with callbacks Aug. 14, from 6-9 pm at the Eddy Building in Foster.
- Show dates are November 10, 11, 17 + 18 at 7 pm, and Nov. 12 +19 at 2pm, and take place at the Captain Isaac Paine School auditorium in Foster, RI.
- More information and tickets available at www.swampmeadow.org