BWW Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center’s world premiere adaptation of the young adult fantasy classic brings the novel’s unique blend of sci-fi and whimsical poetry to life.

The Kennedy Center’s Performances for Young Audiences season is back, and it kicked off with a world premiere adaptation of the young adult fantasy classic A Wind in the Door. This wildly imaginative tale by Madeleine L’Engle is best known as the sequel to her Newbery Medal-winning novel A Wrinkle in Time, which has sparked multiple stage and film adaptations.

A Wind in the Door might have been slightly overshadowed by the acclaim of its literary predecessor, but it tells a story that’s innovative and thrilling in its own right. The Kennedy Center’s adaptation by Jacqueline Goldfinger and directed by Nicole A. Watson brings the novel’s unique blend of sci-fi and whimsical poetry to life in a whirlwind performance.

From its very beginning, A Wind in the Door strikes a delicate balance between the peppy silliness of a kid-friendly adventure and the solemnity of a transcendent journey across the galaxy. It’s dizzying in just the right way as the audience is thrown into the supernatural world of Meg and Charles Wallace‘s attic, where magical beings suddenly appear and an imaginary sub-cellular structure called the farandolae contains the secret to the universe’s salvation.

BWW Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center
Tyasia Velines as Progo and Alicia Grace as Meg go on a journey together in the Kennedy Center’s A Wind in the Door. Photo by Teresa Wood.

While the show plays with different fantastical scenarios, the crux of the drama is that Meg’s (Alicia Grace) little brother Charles Wallace (David Landstrom) is dying due to a disorder of his farandolae. Her earthly friend Calvin (Vaughn Ryan Midder) and otherworldly friend Progo (Tyasia Velines) need to find a way to make him well. To do this, they must complete a series of tests from an ethereal cosmic instructor named Blajeny (Lynette Rathnam), fight an evil force called the Echthroi who are attempting to “X” or eliminate everything in the universe, and communicate with each other telepathically through a process called “kything.” And finally, they must travel inside Charles Wallace‘s mitochondria to convince a particular farandolae called Sporos to “take root” and resist the chaotic influence of the Echthroi.https://e0f049babf827176dd0eb23c4f3b662c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

This is a lot to tackle in just 60 minutes, but the Kennedy Center’s smart and heartfelt adaptation manages to crystallize the big ideas with time to spare for the grade school good stuff, from physical comedy to puppet dances. It’s a bit ambitious, but A Wind in the Door gets the job done – part of the play’s storytelling approach is to pepper in clearly formulated lessons about friendship, bravery, and loss, and while this might feel a bit didactic for adult audience members, it captures the spirit of L’Engle’s prose.

A Wind in the Door is also just fun to look at: the costumes by Ivania Stack and puppets by Matt-a-Magical were dazzlingly fun. For a show with minimal set changes, it was visually lush enough to hold the attention of even the most Tik Tok-steeped elementary schooler. This was largely due to the combination of the absolutely breathtaking lighting design by Sherrice Mojgani and sound by Tosin Olufolabi.

Beyond the beautiful visuals and ambiance, the show was carried by a spectacular cast. Alicia Grace brought bubbly energy and warmth to the character of Meg, simultaneously capturing her childlike wonder and maturity beyond her years. Tyasia Velines held the audience in the palm of their hand as Progo – perhaps a poor characterization here, since Progo’s hands are not palmed but rather take the form of additional heads, complete with snouts and wide eyes. Indeed, Velines made the unique physicality of this wondrous supernatural creature their own with charisma and (literal) panache. David Landstrom‘s endearing Charles Wallace embodied the boy genius in all his stuffy-nosed fragility. Vaughn Ryan Midder was delightful as Calvin, and Lynette Rathnam‘s Blajeny was captivating underneath a stunning costume that you have to see in person to fully experience.

BWW Review: A WIND IN THE DOOR at the Kennedy Center
Vaughn Ryan Midder, Alicia Grace, David Landstrom, Lynette Rathnam, and Tyasia Velines make up the dynamic ensemble cast of the Kennedy Center’s A Wind in the Door. Photo by Teresa Wood.

One of Madeleine L’Engle’s biggest talents is connecting the cosmic to the personal, and this synthesis between the vast and intimate is captured beautifully in Jacqueline Goldfinger’s adaptation. While concepts like the importance of “taking root” and Meg’s power to “name” people for who they are might seem a bit abstract for an elementary or middle schooler, A Wind in the Door makes big themes tangible and accessible without talking down to its audience.

The idea of love vanquishing darkness is not exactly radical, but it’s not every day that the triumph of good over evil is depicted through squirming farandolae or the feather of a many-eyed heavenly being. In the world of A Wind in the Door, we all depend on each other to survive (no matter how many eyes we have), and whether we look out for one another can determine the fate of us all. It’s a timeless lesson and one that couldn’t be more important for the times we live in now.

Running time: 60 minutes

A Wind in the Door at the Kennedy Center is playing through September 11, 2021, and the production will be streaming later in the fall for school audiences. The show is recommended for ages 9 and up. Tickets are $20 per person, and you can go here to reserve your seat. Information about the Kennedy Center’s Covid-19 requirements can be found here.

Read the full article by Dara Homer from Broadway World, Washington DC here.

Kennedy Center opens a fantastic ‘Wind in the Door’ for kids

The Kennedy Center’s world premiere commission of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door opened over Labor Day weekend to a much deserved standing ovation. The sequel to A Wrinkle in Time, and second installment of L’Engle’s Time Quartet, was adapted for the stage by Jacqueline Goldfinger and features the beloved characters Charles Wallace, Meg, and Calvin as they battle an evil force, which threatens all existence, through a series of tests.

Vaughn Ryan Midder, Alicia Grace, David Landstrom, Lynette Rathnam, and Tyasia Velines (Puppet by Matthew McGee) in ‘A Wind in the Door.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

Director Nicole A. Watson brings the story to life with a five-person cast and a gorgeous set designed by Luciana Stecconi. The production includes a towering puppet (by Matt-a-Magic) and a lovable dragon-esque creature named Progo, charmingly played by Tyasia Velines, with a magically colorful costume (designed by Ivania Stack) using Velines’s arms as dragon necks with a head on each hand.

Alicia Grace and David Landstrom in ‘A Wind in the Door.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

The story begins with Meg, played by Alicia Grace, worrying about her brother, Charles Wallace (David Landstrom), who is not well and keeps getting sicker. With the help of her good friend Calvin (Vaughn Ryan Midder), they encourage Charles Wallace to hunker down in a warm blanket so he can rest while they read a book to him.

But the trio is interrupted by an intergalactic Teacher named Blejany (Lynette Rathnam), who tells them that Charles Wallace is in danger and they must go on a mission to save him from the evil Echthros and restore balance to the Universe. 

They will not be alone, though; Blejany has brought them a guide named Progo (Velines) to help them along the way. With the creature’s help they agree to take on this enormous task and determine to save Charles Wallace and, in turn, the entire world.

In the first test, three replicas of Calvin appear. The actors are all wearing the same outfit, with an emotionless mask to hide their faces, all claiming to be Calvin and posturing like him. Meg must name them all and discover who is the real Calvin. The scene is a bit sinister but with enough humor to keep from being scary. The Calvins slither around Meg doing different moves and tricks to plead their case. But ultimately, because Meg knows Calvin’s heart so well, she is able to be rid of the imposters and find the real Calvin.

And this is the nature of the tests Meg must perform. She uses her knowledge and fortitude to find the truths and fight against deceit, flattery, and destruction, for the good of all. Grace portrays Meg’s struggle with a brilliant balance of youthful self-doubt and honest determination.

Tyasia Velines and Alicia Grace in ‘A Wind in the Door.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

The entire cast does an impressive job and the show has a steady-paced, high-energy, suspenseful vibe that holds the audience’s engagement throughout the production. My 12- year-old attended with me and was shocked when only five actors appeared at the curtain call, asking “Where are the rest of the people?”— which speaks to the seamless performances and transitions by the crew.

A Wind in the Door is a heart-warming tale about love, hope, and responsibility. The story addresses the unpleasant truth that there are many evils in the world. And though things may not seem to affect us all directly, these evils could ultimately destroy our world if we do not band together and fight. This message transcends into so much that is going on today. Climate change, civil rights, prejudice, and mental health stigmas. The list is endless.

Alicia Grace and Vaughn Ryan Midder in ‘A Wind in the Door.’ Photo by Teresa Wood.

The Kennedy Center has created a fantastic, original production with a subtle yet powerful message that all youth should hear. With a knockout cast and impressive production team, A Wind in the Door is destined to become a new family favorite.

Read the article from Kendall Mostafavai at the DC Metro here.

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, with no intermission. Most enjoyed by 9+

A Wind in the Door plays September 2 through 11, 2021, at The Kennedy Center Family Theater, 2700 F St. NW, Washington, D.C. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office at (202) 416-8540.

Cast:  Alicia Grace (Meg Murry), David Landstrom (Charles Wallace), Vaughn Ryan Midder (Calvin O’Keefe), Lynette Rathnam (Blageny), and Tyasia Velines (Progo)

Creative Team: Director – Nicole A. Watson; Playwright – Jacqueline Goldfinger; Dramaturg – Martine Kei Green-Rogers; Stage Manager – Rachael Danielle Albert; Costume Designer – Ivania Stack; Sound Designer – Tosin Olufolabi; Properties Artisan – Patti Kalil; Production Assistant – Stephen Bubniak; Scenic Designer – Luciana Stecconi; Lighting Designer – Sherrice Mojgani; Puppets – Matt-a-Magical; Assistant Director – Agyeiwaa Asante; Casting Director – Michelle Kozlak

Khalia Davis Directs Online Play to Help Kids Grasp Racism at Orlando Repertory Theatre

The cast and crew of "A Kids Play About Racism."
The cast and crew of “A Kids Play About Racism.” (Orlando Repertory Theatre / Courtesy photo)

Orlando Repertory Theatre is among 41 theaters nationwide co-presenting the online premiere of a free play about racism designed for children, and this version is directed by Khalia Davis of the Gurman Agency LLC.

“A Kids Play About Racism” will be shown Aug. 1-2 in the hopes of giving families a way to engage in meaningful conversation about racial issues. The play is adapted from “A Kids Book About Race” by Jelani Memory, a Black father with six children of different races.

Orlando Rep and the other presenters, led by the Bay Area Children’s Theatre in California, Seattle Children’s Theatre and Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, specialize in theater for young audiences. The online presentation of “A Kids Play About Racism” will be available at get.broadwayondemand.com.

“This performance explains what racism is, how to know it when you see and experience it, and ideas for what you can do about it,” reads the website, kidsplayabout.org. The production is recommended for ages 5 and up.

Read the full article by Matthew J. Palm from the Orlando Sentinel here.

Children’s Theatre Brings a Little ‘Grace’ to a Rough Political Season

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Grace (Talia Robinson) decides she’d like to represent her third-grade class in “Grace for President” at Children’s Theatre of Charlotte

Despite the fuss made over Hillary Clinton, Grace Campbell was the first female to declare an interest in being president in 2016. We’ll find out how she does well before November.

She’s the third-grade heroine of “Grace for President,” the musical Children’s Theatre of Charlotte commissioned and will open next week. (School performances precede the Oct. 21 opening to the public.) It’s a world premiere, though CTC allowed Aurora Theatre in Lawrenceville, Ga. to do two public performances last weekend.

Back when Clinton’s candidacy was still a rumor – a likely rumor, but not confirmed – CTC artistic director Adam Burke hired Joan Cushing to write book, music and lyrics for this show. She’d done “Ella’s Big Chance” for CTC and happily dug into the story of Grace, which started life as a picture book by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator LeUyen Pham.

It depicts the race between practical, down-to-Earth Grace and Thomas Cobb, who attains popularity by making inflated promises he can’t keep. Any similarity to the current “adult” race remains accidental, as Burke and Cushing were discussing this idea in 2014.

“We thought it would be a perfect fit for the election season of 2016,” says Burke. “Joan had a career for years as a political satirist in Washington – she played the piano (in revues) as Mrs. Foggybottom – so who better to write a musical that explains the electoral system?” Michelle Long, CTC’s director of education, will helm the show.

The kids in Ms. Barrington’s class all represent a state in the election. Not to give the ending away, but it comes down to the three electoral votes of Wyoming – which elected the first female governor in U.S. history, Nellie Tayloe Ross, in 1924.

Grace’s African-American heritage also seems timely to Burke, not just because we have a black president now but because “what’s happened in Charlotte recently has made this story relevant. It’s important for us to provide offerings that represent the whole community.”

Yet the message, he says, is less that girls can serve capably or even that African-Americans should have a hand in running the country. It’s more that “you should vote for the person most qualified to serve, whoever it may be. Vote not for what they are – Republican, Democrat, man, woman – but what they stand for.”

Read the full story by Lawrence Toppman for the Charlotte Observer here.