BWW Interview: Steven C. Anderson Offers a Familiar Story from a New Prospective
When he writes a play, Columbus resident Steven C. Anderson usually begins within an idea and finds the right cast to present it. With THE WOLF TALES, which opens on March 7 at the Studio Two Theatre in the Riffe Center, Anderson did things the other way around. He started with a cast and wrote a children's play tailor-made for their strengths.
Anderson had hoped to have the script finished long before the four-person cast began rehearsals but reluctantly admits he finished it weeks before the start of practices. However that, he says,may have made this production even stronger.
"(Writing THE WOLF TALES) was more like writing for this company rather than free inspiration," says Anderson, the producing director for CATCO Is Kids. "It's really fun to write for a group of people when you know what their sense of humor is and what they can deliver well. I was able to look at their specific strengths and what they could do together."
Anderson, who has written more than 75 plays, believes the audience will be very pleased with the final product. THE WOLF TALES focuses on a trial where the wolf, the villain of so many children's stories, is tried for his many misdeeds. In this particular case, however, the wolf is falsely accused.
CATCO apprentice Japheal Bondurant, who has appeared in CATCO production of THE CAT IN THE HAT, takes on the role of the wolf. The other three members of the cast, CATCO apprentices Ben Hartwig (Brick Pig/Peter) and Emily Turner (Straw Pig/Little Red Riding Hood) and actress Cassie Gress (Twig Pig/Mother of the Boy Who Cried Wolf) play a variety of witnesses speaking against the wolf.
The idea for THE WOLF'S TALES came to Anderson years ago when he was doing a backwards version of THE THREE LITTLE PIGS.
"I got this idea: what if we took all of the stories about wolves and made a play from the prospective of the wolf?" Anderson says. "Shows like this help children to understand that there is more than one point of view to every story."
The majority of Anderson's plays are geared towards children. When he was the associate producer/director for the Players' Theatre from the mid-1980s to the early 90s, Anderson began to write shows for younger audiences. When The Players' Theatre closed in 1993, he founded The Phoenix Theatre, which performed many of the works he had written. After The Phoenix merged with CATCO is Kids in 2010, he took a short hiatus from writing before working on THE WOLF TALES.
Anderson says young people have a much more refined palate than what the children's programming often gives them credit for.
"Actually, if you give children something they can sink their teeth into, they can be a pretty remarkable audience," he says. "Children will really grasp on to something if they feel like the show is not talking down to them. Otherwise they lose interest.
"We never stoop to an audience. We don't have characters slipping on banana peels or making big muggy faces. We make our stories about real things."
The message to THE WOLF TALES is there is always more than one side to a story, even ones the audience thinks they know by heart.
"Things are not always so black and white," Anderson says. "Hopefully, the audience will think about things like: What if the wolf was kind? What if he was trying to help the three little pigs? What if he was just misunderstood?
"It gives them the opportunity to not only experience these stories again but to see them from another point of view. Somewhere toward the center is where the truth is."
The run of THE WOLF'S TALES begins with two half-price previews March 7, at 9:45 a.m. and 11 a.m. at the Studio Two Theatre in the Riffe Center (77 S. High St. in downtown Columbus). Opening night is March 7, at 7:30 p.m. Other performances are March 8, at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.; March 9, at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.; March 15, at 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. and Sunday, March 16, at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.