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October 19, 2011
by: Dollie Cromwell

“The Reinvention of Edison Thomas”

Several students from Mosaic and IDEAS will showcase their talent this weekend at the world premiere of “The Reinvention of Edison Thomas,” based on the award-winning book by Jacqueline Houtman.

The Theater for Young Audiences Rising Stars Youth Theater Troupe will give performances  at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. All performances are at the Sheboygan Masonic Mansion, 411 St. Clair Ave. General admission is $5, and the play is recommended for grades three and up.

Fifteen young playwrights – including Mosaic students Kade Byrand, Sara Bartol, Arden Howland, Maddeline Ivy and Hannah Staats and IDEAS student Chloe Howland – worked this summer to create a script based on Houtman’s book. They worked under the guidance of Sherri Byrand and Deb Sabol-Williams. The youth met for 40 hours in August and ultimately contributed more than 600 hours to the project, according to Sabol-Williams, artistic director for the theater troupe.

The story is about Eddy, a middle-school student for whom science is easy but friendship is hard. He can invent useful devices to do anything except solve his bully problem. Through trust, humor and a willingness to try, Eddy eventually realizes that even the mechanics of friendship can be learned.

Houtman, whose book recently won a Council for Wisconsin Writers award, is a science writer and children’s author who lives in Madison. She was unable to take part in the stage adaptation of her book due to scheduling demands. However, she Skyped with the young playwrights in August.

“I found them to be exceedingly bright and enthusiastic,” she said. “They asked some very insightful questions. I can tell they put a lot of thought into the writing.”

Houtman has a background in theater and, as a result, said she tends to write fiction envisioning it as a play. “That being said,” she admitted, “I never in my wildest dreams imagined that a theater troupe would actually adapt and perform it in real life!”      

IDEAS student Chloe Howland serves as a stage director and helped assemble the cast and crew, which includes the following Mosaic students:

  • Kade Byrand as narrator and Alva, set design and props.
  • Hannah Staats, set design and props, lighting.
  • Arden Howland as narrator and driver.
  • Rayne O’Muineachan as Meara, costume designer.

Other IDEAS students involved in the production include:

  • Juniper Alby-Wayh as Keisha, costume designer.
  • Smith Huber as narrator and Edison.

The cast members rehearsed and performed more than 75 hours each. “In addition, actors practice on their own to prepare for rehearsals,” Sabol-Williams said. “As a group, the cast and creative team will have contributed over 1,800 hours. Add in the playwrights' 600 hours, and the group total is over 2,400!”

Houtman said she Skyped with the cast and crew in September. She will see the show for the first time on Saturday with her husband, Carl, and their two children. She will be on hand afterward for a “Meet the Author!” event.

Copies of her book will be available for purchase for $12. Cash and checks will be accepted. TYA was able to purchase copies of “The Reinvention of Edison Thomas” at a wholesale rate and will make $1.63 on the sale of each book. All proceeds will benefit the theater troupe.

An optional Science Friday Sandwich Supper will be offered for $3 per person before the Friday performance. Advance online reservations are required and may be made at www.tyasheboygan.org.

Tickets may be purchased online or at the box office in the lobby at the Masonic Mansion starting one hour before performances for walk-up cash-only sales.

The production is sponsored in part by Acuity and the Arts together with the Hugh and Ruth V. Ross Charitable Fund.

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