Playwright Anne Negri is experiencing a homecoming of sorts as Childsplay in Tempe prepares its production of “With Two Wings,” a work Negri wrote while enrolled in ASU’s M.F.A. in theatre for youth program. Negri now lives, and teaches public school drama classes, in Illinois –but she’s been in the Valley this week for Childsplay rehearsals of her work.
“I’ve been in the room since the the day the actors read it,” says Negri. She’s also attended production meetings, spent time in the prop shop and more. Negri says she’s thrilled to have “all these smart people” talk about her work and debate the finer points about how best to give it wings.
The impetus for writing “With Two Wings” was a personal experience — coupled with a teacher’s expectation that she not only study playwriting but also give it a try. Negri shares that her older sister, who suffered malnutrition and other challenges before being adopted from India, has learning disabilities.
Though Negri’s sister, now in her late 30s, is now divorced — she was married for a time to a man with learning disabilities, and they had a son. Negri notes that Will, now 10 years old, “somehow missed those genetic hits.” And it got her wondering.
What would it be like for a child to surpass his own parents in many ways? By age 8 or 9, says Negri, her nephew Will was already reading better than his mom. Early in the process of thinking about Will’s story, Negri had a dream about people with wings — which led her to revisit the myth of Icarus.
The myth describes an escape by Icarus and his father Daelalus using wings made with wax. Seems Icarus ignored his father’s advice to avoid flying near the sun, then died once the wax in his wings melted from the sun’s heat. Negri imagined the story with a different ending — in which the father, rather than the son, fell into the sea.
Negri describes “With Two Wings” as a “fantasy world.” Its inhabitants include a boy named Lyf (Nathan Dobson), his dad (Jon Gentry) and his mom (Kate Haas). Also two kids — Taur (John Moum) and Meta (Kaleena Newman) — who live in town but stumble one day onto the family’s isolated home.
Lyf’s encounter with the pair sparks his first realization that his world is different. How and why it’s different are at the heart of the play — which is being performed weekends Jan. 22-Feb. 5 at Tempe Center for the Arts. Families who attend a Jan. 22 “Storybook Preview Performance” pay just $12 per ticket and receive a free book.
The back of my lovely “With Two Wings” postcard notes that there’s a “Backstage Tour” after the 1pm performance on Feb. 4. Also a “Family Improv” event that morning at Childsplay’s “Campus for Imagination and Wonder.” Parents can learn more by visiting Childsplay online at www.childsplayaz.org.
Note: Costumes for the Childsplay production of “With Two Wings” are designed by D. Daniel Hollingshead. Childsplay recommends this play for ages six & up. “With Two Wings” is also part of Childsplay’s 2011-12 “School Tours” season. Click here for details.
Coming up: More about the “With Two Wings” journey from class project to Childsplay world premiere