The Reasons I Love The Giver Play
If you are considering plays for the next school year, I’d like to recommend you take a look at The Giver. Here are the reasons I love The Giver play.
Reason Number #1
The story line of The Giver is intriguing from the very first line. Jonas’ world is perfect. Everything is under control and safe. There is no war or fear or pain. There are also no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. But when Jonas turns 12, he is chosen for special training from The Giver—to receive and keep the memories of the community. The Giver is the only person who holds the memories of real pain and real joy. Now Jonas will learn the truth about life—and the hypocrisy of his utopian world. Through this astonishing and moving adaptation, discover what it means to grow up, to grow wise, and to take control of your own destiny.
The play has roles for 4 men and 2-4 women and extras.
This novel is very popular with upper elementary and middle grade students. To that end, I’d suggest that high school theater programs mount the production.
Reason #2 The Author
I dug around for information about Lois Lowry and found her website, Loislowry.com. It states, ” Born Lois Ann Hammersberg on March 20, 1937, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Lowry is one of America’s most popular and versatile children’s book authors. She has written in a variety of fictional forms, from the WWII tale Number the Stars to the lighthearted adventures of Anastasia Krupnik to the fantastical The Giver.
The Giver was seen as controversial by some for its violent themes, sexual content (not mentioned in the play) and depiction of infanticide and euthanasia. Others, however, heaped praise on this remarkable work, and Lowry won the 1994 Newbery for the novel. Over the years, Lowry added to this examination of a dystopian future with Gathering Blue (2000), The Messenger (2004) and Son (2012).”
Reason Number #3 The Playwright
Eric Coble was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and raised on the Navajo and Ute reservations in New Mexico and Colorado. His scripts for adults have been produced on Broadway (Tony- and Pulitzer-nominated The Velocity of Autumn), off-Broadway (Bright Ideas), in all 50 states of the U.S., and on several continents.
His plays for young audiences include award-winning adaptations of Lois Lowry’s The Giver and Gathering Blue as well as Sherlock Holmes: The Baker Street Irregulars, Ghosts in the Machine, Swagger, Cinderella Confidential and a dozen other published scripts that have been produced at The Kennedy Center, Dallas Children’s Theatre, Childsplay, Metro Theatre Company, Oregon Children’s Theatre, First Stage, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Cleveland Play House, Adventure Stage, Alliance Theatre and many others. Awards include two AATE Distinguished Play Awards for Best Adaptation and the Charlotte Chorpenning Award for the body of work of a children’s playwright.
These two power house creatives alone make this play one you should seriously consider producing.
Technical Challenges of the Play
In designing the set, I’d suggest dividing your stage into two places–Jonas’ home and the Giver’s home. Give more space to the Giver’s home as most of the action occurs there. Several scenes can be played in front of the curtain or neutral space between the two sets.
As the play progresses, Jonas begins to understand the Giver, more and more things begin to have color. That’s a challenge. We considered several ways to depict the changes and finally landed on a technique magicians use–distract the audience and intrigue them to look where you want them to focus.
The Giver’s home requires bookcases full of books. Among other things, we painted four flats to look like identical. However, each flat was just a little different–the first book case flat was painted with all gray books. The second flat had several books painted in red or blue while the others were gray and so on until the last flat’s books has most of the books were any color but gray.
To accomplish this, my designer hung the flats in order, one in front of the other on a track (like a closet door track in your house). In the photo above you can see the flat, upstage behind the Giver. As the scenes progressed, the crew merely slid the first flat over past the stage curtains. That left the second flat showing. This continued until every flat had been used. At the same time, the crew switched out a few props on the standing bookcases, so they began to be more colorful, too.
To help contain the action, we hung pieces of grey cloth (of varying shades of gray) from the light battens. Sometimes the hanging stage lights would shine on the cloth and sometimes not.
As you can see the costumes are simple. You just need grey or shades of it for everyone. Most of my cast found their own costumes and it worked just fine. We made the Giver’s costume and an older woman character’s costumes (used a bible character sewing pattern).
The Biggest Challenge
The most difficult parts of this play are the sound and lights. Since this was a community theater production, we had access to skilled lighting and sound board operators. There are many light and sound cues and they are vital to the production. However, if you don’t have access to both using simple lights which can dim and live sound effects will work.
Audiences will stretch their imaginations if you are consistent in the sound and lights you choose.
My personal thoughts about the play
I won’t lie here. This is a challenging play. The main characters have many lines. The scenes change quickly from one place to the next, the plot contains mature themes and forces audiences to seriously consider what is presented in from of them. The best comparison I can make to The Giver is The Hunger Games.
But friend, this play is worth it to produce.
Here is what I had to say about it in an interview several years ago, ““This production is quite a different kind of production for the Fine Arts Guild,” director Debbie Baldwin states. “Although the play appears simple to produce because the set is sparse and the actors don’t change costumes, there are lots of props that were a challenge to find. The entire show is ‘gray’ — everything! Three gray bicycles, probably a hundred gray books, a gray globe and a gray apple, for instance.
Plus, it is filled with many particular sound cues (a heartbeat, a baby crying, a horse galloping, an elephant trumpeting, etc.) that require the actors as well as the audience to use their imagination, because there is nothing visual to draw upon for the suggestion. Jonas, the main character, sees things in color that no one else sees. From a lighting point of view, that’s difficult to portray. ‘The Giver’ speaks about falling snow and warfare. Those aren’t things that we dramatize in a play very often.
The question that we discussed was not where to find these sounds to record, but rather which sounds would evoke the emotion most effectively? The show lends itself to much creativity on our part and that’s why I enjoy directing it. It’s very inspiring.”
If you’d like some directing tips, check out Play Production for Newbie Theater Teachers: Expectations Versus Reality
Have you directed The Giver? I’d love to know your thoughts about it. Contact me at DhcBaldwin@gmail.com