THE NEVERENDING STORY Now On Stage In Stratford

The beloved adventure tale The Neverending Story comes to life in Jillian Keiley's eye-popping production filled with spectacle and wondrous other-worldly creatures. Previews are underway at the Avon Theatre and the production officially opens on Saturday, June 15.

Keiley, Artistic Director of English Theatre at Canada's National Arts Centre, is well remembered by Festival patrons for mounting such inventive productions as Alice Through the Looking-Glass, The Diary of Anne Frank and Bakkhai. Together with her creative team, she once again brings her distinctive, imaginative style to transform the Avon stage into a vivid fantasy world featuring astonishing puppetry and technical wizardry.

Led by Designer Bretta Gerecke, the creative team also includes Lighting Designer Leigh Ann Vardy, Sound Designer Don Ellis, Fight Director Anita Nittoly, Movement and Puppetry Director Brad Cook and Puppetry Consultant James Retter Duncan. As a nod to the enormously popular 1984 film version, the production is infused with original '80s-inspired music by Canadian singer and songwriter Hawksley Workman.

Presented as the 2019 Schulich Children's Play, The Neverending Story follows 10-year-old Bastian, played by Jake Runeckles, who, in order to avoid school bullies, hides in a closet reading a strangely compelling book: the tale of a hero's quest to save the realm of Fantastica from the encroaching terror of the Nothing. In a bid to save their dying ruler, the Childlike Empress, young warrior Atreyu, played by Qasim Khan, is chosen to find a cure for the Empress and destroy the Nothing, but ultimately finds that she can only be saved by an outsider. Bastian steps into the role of saviour in the story and discovers his own power in this magical world.

"In this time of young people standing up fiercely to today's seemingly unvanquishable threats, like the existential threat of climate change, the idea of a child being chosen to save all that we know, or to re-invent everything that could be, is no longer in the realm of the imagination," says Keiley. "I hope with this imagined story that we might inspire some young people the way that those real young fighters and heroes have inspired us."

The Neverending Story marks its 40th anniversary this year. Since it was published in 1979, Michael Ende's novel has been translated into more than 40 languages and sold over 20 million copies worldwide. The novel has been adapted for the stage by Canadian playwright David S. Craig, who has revised the script for this production.

"The plays we present for young people are vital," says Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino. "When we tell these stories, we are not only developing the audiences of the future, but also imparting valuable messages. The Neverending Story speaks with such heart to something that is so important to all of us: finding inner strength and courage to overcome adversity. Bastian's journey serves as a beautiful lesson about the power of imagination and I hope it reminds us all, young and old, never to lose sight of that."

The magic of The Neverending Story extends beyond the stage with several family events planned before and after selected performances. Kick off your adventure with a Hero's Quest Lunch (July 7, July 27, August 18), a fantastical meal complete with puppet demonstrations, games and face painting, and The Neverending Story Workshop (June 23, July 13, July 21, August 23), a series of drama exercises inspired by the story. After the show, settle in for a Cushion Concert full of favourite songs and stories for the whole family (July 13, August 24, September 21).

For tickets and a full list of the Forum events offered almost every day throughout the season, please visit: stratfordfestival.ca/WhatsOn/TheForum.



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