September 20, 2013 3:00 am • By Jaci Webb
Two veteran stage performers are taking on one of the most
important tasks of their theater career — bringing a much-loved
young adult science-fiction novel to the stage.
Carter and Kelsey Steffan are working with the Youth
Conservatory at NOVA Center for the Performing Arts to produce
“The Giver,” which opens Sept. 27. Carter is directing the show,
which runs through Oct. 6, and Steffan is assisting. It will be
performed in the Black Box at NOVA. Call the theater at 591-9535
Carter said she had the choice to use a
combination of adult and youth actors in the production, but she
opted to use only youths since this is their tale.
got a vulnerability in it, just like these actors,” Carter said.
The novel, written by Lois Lowry, is a popular read by
sixth- and seventh-graders and some members of the cast said it
is their favorite work. Lowry’s story is set in a society where
pain and personal choice are eliminated from the characters’
lives, creating a place of “sameness.” Instead of building a
utopian society, their world becomes the opposite, a dystopian
place. The 1993 novel won the Newbery Medal in 1994, despite
criticism by some that the book’s subject matter is too complex
for early teen readers.
“The message is differences are
important,” said actor Mackenzy Gilsdorf, an eighth-grader. “I
liked the book and am excited to see it come to life in 3-D.”
In the work, the government controls everything from what an
individual’s profession is to whom each person marries. The
Receiver of Memory keeps everyone’s memories so they don’t have
any. An 11-year-old boy, Jonas, has been selected to become the
new Receiver. Through Jonas, who is played by Tyler Shackelford,
the audience will recall the euphoria of experiencing love. But
there are painful discoveries, too.
Carter believes that
her youthful cast, which is made up of middle school and high
school students, is just the right age to be struggling with
choices and asking important questions about life. The play
serves as a parable for what happens when we don’t get to
“What I love about this story is that it asks
more questions than it gives answers,” Carter said. “One
question is ‘What should the role of government be?’ ’’
At 17, Matthew Hagen is the oldest actor in the drama. He plays
the Receiver of Memory, who names a replacement and then calls
himself The Giver. Hagen said his character has taken on all the
pain and the joy of an entire society.
“They have taken
so much away, but it is the choosing that is important,” Hagen
To prepare for his role, Hagen set up a row of
boxes, assigning a different emotion to each one. Then he ran
through the emotions that he must show on stage because his
character is the only one left who can feel anything.
Carter plans to use a minimalist set and monotone costumes since
the citizens of this world cannot choose colors to wear.
Actor Danielle Dupree said the play shows how a society might
exist in the future. She hopes not.
“The question is,
‘Would you rather fit into the world or stand out?” said Dupree,
During rehearsal last week, Jonas tells
his mother, played by Shannon Sheehy, about a dream he had of a
girl he has a crush on. His mother told him that he must take
medication to keep him from thinking about this girl because the
town elders will tell him who to marry.
In another scene,
Jonas and the other 11-year-olds stand nervously awaiting their
profession at the Ceremony of the Twelves.
“You 11s have
spent all your time learning to fit in,” the announcer tells
them. “Today you are 12 and we honor your differences. Thank you
for your childhood.”
Each 11-year-old is then assigned an
occupation, including birth mother, recreation leader, and in
Jonas’ case, The Receiver of Memories.
Carter praised her
actors for giving so much heart to the production.
are great moments and that is the first step to having a great
show,” Carter said.