Play undergoes innovation, celebrates 50th anniversary
“James and the Giant Peach” is more than a story of a young boy’s adventure with personified bugs and overgrown peaches.
According to the MSU play’s director, Edward Daranyi, it’s a tale of humanity.
“I want audiences to be empathetic toward James and his journey of escape,” he said. “I also want them to identify in their own lives the people they see on stage.”
“James and the Giant Peach” — originally written by Roald Dahl — opens at 7 p.m. Friday in Pasant Theatre at Wharton Center, with a second performance at 11:55 p.m. to honor the story’s 50th anniversary.
Theatre senior Eric Eilersen, who was cast as the role of James, recalls “James and the Giant Peach” as part of his childhood.
Eilersen said he hopes that students attending the midnight performance let loose and get in touch with his or her inner child, as he plans on doing onstage.
“The whole purpose is to be in the mind of a 10-year-old and have the most fun you can,” he said. “If you bring students at midnight all riled up, that’s exactly the atmosphere we want.”
In addition to the midnight show, cast members will conduct a matinee performance in front of an audience comprised of about 500 local elementary and middle school students.
Theatre senior Eric Piwowar, acting as the centipede in the production, said he looks forward to observing how the youth respond to the performance.
The play’s anticipated demographic is expected to extend beyond young audiences and connect with folks of all ages.
Daranyi specializes in uniting generations and this play has proven to be the medium to do so.
He said the play’s core message is a lesson in acceptance, which is relatable at any age.
“The perfect audience is going to be a mix of all ages, all the way from 5 to 85 and everywhere in between,” Daranyi said. “It’s cross generational … there really is something for everyone.”
In addition to acting as a visitation to childhood, the sci-fi adventure aspects of the story allowed for a creative adaptation of “James and the Giant Peach” by Daranyi and the rest of the cast. The play became an exercise in theatrical innovation for the cast.
Piwowar was cast as the centipede alongside theatre and professional writing senior Carolyne Rex.
“(To be double cast as the centipede) presented so many unique challenges, as well as artistic freedom,” he said.
Daranyi said “James and the Giant Peach” pushes many levels of a tradition.
“We’ve cross gendered the cast,” he said. “We do a fair amount of improvisational work within the play and we’ve added a significant amount of music. It’s not entirely traditional — it’s a fantasy and we’re embracing that.”