Creating Newton Badger (and other forest creatures)

I spent a bit of time yesterday going through some old notes. Specifically, I was looking for some notes I wrote about a potential new play that I wanted to write, but I also thought it might be interesting if I could find the first words I ever put down regarding my play that just opened last weekend, “The Ballad of Newton Badger.”

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Newton Badger addressing the village of Oakglendaleville (All photos by Jennifer Mariano, first dress rehearsal)

For the past few months, I’ve been directing this production, watching a small host of actors take on the different roles, each becoming their respective character while the buildings and trees of Oakglendaleville slowly popped up on stage. When you’re as immersed into a project as I’ve been, it’s easy to forget that these characters haven’t always existed. As a matter of fact, they’re so new that only a handful of people have really ever met them (well, after completing a few performances, a bit more than a handful know them now).

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Felicity Skunk (left) isn’t so sure of Major Buck (right) plan to banish Newton Badger.

It’s truly a remarkable thing to watch these characters walking around alive on stage. I said once in an interview that because this show existed only in my head for so many months, that it was literally like watching my dreams come true to see the likes of Newton Badger butt heads with Major Buck, the Squirrels mucking about with their conspiracy theories, Felicity Skunk standing up for herself, Halley Wolf trying desperately to hold everything together, and poor Michael Fox sweeping the street with a glint of hope in his eye. On the page, I felt like I had a good group of interesting characters who had a story to tell, but it was something else entirely when everyone got out on stage on opening night in full makeup and costume. All tied together with a fantastic score by my friend Sam Miltich (who, by the way, was the co-collaborator of this show from the very beginning), the village of Oakglendaleville during those few days of Newton Badger’s greatest discovery finally became a real place.

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The Squirrels discover the sum of their fears!

I suppose I’m just feeling sentimental right now. It’s been a long journey with these characters. I’ve had a longer relationship with Newton Badger than I have some girlfriends. And now it’s almost over. Tomorrow is the last show, and I’ll be wishing these fanciful forest creatures adieu… at least for a time. After all, there’s no saying that they’ll never grace the stage again.

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From left; Roxy Fox (Isabelle Bailey), Bartleby Beaver (Jeremy Anderson), Patty Possum (Patty Potasnak), Major Buck (Nathan Bergstedt), Felicity Skunk (Autumn Gordon), Newton Badger (John Peterson), Halley Wolf (Allison Friesen), Michael Fox (Matthew Sackett), Squirrel #3 (Kat Johnson), Squirrel #2 (Nora Pederson), and Squirrel #1 (Nathan Sackett)
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