Jerry Whiddon Directs Beloved Family-Friendly Musical Based on Mo Willems’ Best-selling “Elephant & Piggie” Books
GLEN ELLYN, Ill.— As part of a 20-city national tour, the Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences on Tour’s production of “Elephant & Piggie’s We are in a Play!” comes to the McAninch Arts Center, located at 425 Fawell Blvd. on the campus of College of DuPage, Friday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. This show runs approximately one hour with no intermission and is recommended for ages 4 and up.
Based on Mo Willems’ beloved, award-winning, and best-selling “Elephant & Piggie” children’s books,
“Elephant & Piggie’s We are in a Play!” has the duo singing and dancing their way through peril and suspense, facing fundamental questions like, what do you wear to a fancy pool costume party? Should you share your ice cream? And how can two friends play with one toy? Backed by nutty backup singers, The Squirrelles, the duo even gets the audience involved in the action.
The production features script and lyrics by six-time Emmy Award-winner and popular children’s book author Mo Willems, music by Deborah Wicks La Puma and is directed by Jerry Whiddon. Commissioned by the Kennedy Center, the family-friendly musical made its world premiere on Nov. 23, 2013.
“Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play!” casting includes Joe Mallon as Elephant Gerald; Shayna Blass as Piggie; and Jamie Eacker, Ashleigh King, and Allie Paris as The Squirrelles. Additional casting includes Ricky Drummond and Jessica Thorne. The creative team includes set design by Jim Kronzer, costume design by Kathleen Geldard, lighting design by Kyle Grant, sound design by Elisheba Ittoop, with choreography by Jessica Hartman, and music direction by George Fulginiti-Shakar.
Des Plaines-born Mo Willems (author/adapter/lyricist) is a #1 New York Times Bestselling author and illustrator and is best known for his Caldecott Honor picture books, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,” “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale” and “Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity.”
“Elephant & Piggie” early reader series have consistently topped the New York Times Bestseller lists, been translated into numerous languages, and have been awarded two Theodor Geisel Medals and five Geisel Honors since debuting in 2007.Willems began his career as a writer and animator for “Sesame Street” (PBS), where he garnered six Emmy Awards for writing. His TV career includes creating “The Off-Beats” (Nickelodeon) and “Sheep in the Big City” (Cartoon Network) and serving as head writer for “Codename: Kids Next Door” (Cartoon Network). After leaving television, he has continued to produce short animated films based on his books that have won numerous awards in festivals around the world. As a performer, Mo has appeared at numerous venues including the San Francisco Sketchfest, BBC Radio, and NPR. His first play “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical,” also a Kennedy Center commission, was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for best new play. A retrospective exhibit of his picture book art, “Seriously Silly: the Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems,” recently seen at the High Museum in Atlanta, will be remounted at the New York Historical Society in the spring of 2016 for an extended run. Mo is honored to be working with the Kennedy Center again for this production.
Deborah Wicks La Puma (music) is a composer, music director and orchestrator. Her work for adults and children has been seen from Australia to Bahrain to the East Room of the White House. She also worked with Mo Willems on the world premiere of “Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Musical” at the Kennedy Center. Her other works for young audiences include the upcoming Kennedy Center Theater for Young Audiences’ premiere of “OLIVÉR: A Brazilian Twist” (with Karen Zacarías), “Frida Libre” (La Jolla Playhouse), “Ferdinand the Bull” (based on the book by Munro Leaf), “Chasing George Washington: A White House Adventure” (Kennedy Center), “Einstein Is a Dummy” (Alliance Theatre) with playwright Karen Zacarías and “Nobody’s Perfect” (based on the book by Marlee Matlin) with Doug Cooney, a musical in English and American Sign Language, commissioned by VSA and the Kennedy Center. Her awards include the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, a National Endowment for the Arts’ New American Works Grant, two Parents’ Choice Awards, an iParenting Media Award and two Helen Hayes nominations for Outstanding New Play. A Mexican American who speaks Spanish and Portuguese, she is also a member of the board of directors of TYA USA/ASSITEJ International, ASCAP and The Dramatist Guild.
Jerry Whiddon(director) is the former producing artistic director/founding member of Round House Theatre and Street 70 Theatre. He has acted, directed, and taught in D.C. and NYC. His recent directing credits include “Guys and Dolls” (Olney Theatre); “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol,” “Give a Pig a Pancake” and “The Night Before Christmas” (Adventure Theatre); “Belle of Amherst” (Bay Theatre); “Nixon’s Nixon,” “Orson’s Shadow” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (Round House); and “Speed the Plow” and “Lost in Yonkers” (Theatre J). Some of his favorite roles include “Seagull on 16th Street” (Trigorin), “Blackbird” (Ray), “A Body of Water” (Moss), “Tabletop” (Marcus), “Wintertime” (Francois) and “Underneath the Lintel” (solo). His film, television, radio, narration, voiceover work includes “Heart and Soul–Biography of Frank Loesser,” “The Wire, An American Affair,” “My One and Only,” “A Woman Named Jackie” (NBC), “The Pelican Brief,” “On The Block” (Yeager Films) and “Parade of Witnesses” (PBS). Other work includes “All My Sons,” “American Appetites” and “A Lesson Before Dying” for VOA/LA Theatre Works. He has coached in the corporate world and taught at the University of Maryland, Catholic University, George Mason University, and Round House.
The Kennedy Center’s production of “Elephant & Piggie’s We are in a Play!” comes to the McAninch Arts Center, located at 425 Fawell Blvd on the campus of College of DuPage Friday, Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 adult/$14 youth. For tickets or more information call the MAC Box Office at 630.942.4000, or visit AtTheMAC.org.
About the MAC
McAninch Arts Center (MAC) at College of DuPage is located 25 miles west of Chicago near I-88 and I-355, and houses three performance spaces (the 780-seat proscenium Belushi Performance Hall; the 186-seat soft-thrust Playhouse Theatre; and the versatile black box Studio Theatre), plus the Cleve Carney Art Gallery, classrooms for the college’s academic programming and the Lakeside Pavilion. The MAC has presented theater, music, dance and visual art to more than 1.5 million people since its opening in 1986 and typically welcomes more than 75,000 patrons from the greater Chicago area to more than 230 performances each season.
The mission of the MACis to foster enlightened educational and performance opportunities, which encourage artistic expression, establish a lasting relationship between people and art, and enrich the cultural vitality of the community. For more information about the MAC, visit AtTheMAC.org, facebook.com/AtTheMAC or twitter.com/AtTheMAC.
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The MAC’s 2015-2016 Season is made possible in part with support by Arts Midwest, BMO Harris, The DuPage Foundation, Hilton of Lisle/Naperville, WDCB 90.9 FM and the College of DuPage Foundation.
Established as a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit charitable organization in 1967, the College of DuPage Foundation raises monetary and in-kind gifts to increase access to education and to enhance cultural opportunities for the surrounding community. For more information about the College of DuPage Foundation, visit cod.edu/foundation or call 630.942.2462.
Programs at the MAC are partially supported through a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.