LAFAYETTE — Come July, there will be wolves in University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Burke-Hawthorne Hall.
Local theater group Acting Unlimited Inc. will bring the wolves to ULL’s theater in an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s children’s book “Wolves in the Walls.”
Playwright Cody Daigle said the story is about a young girl named Lucy who hears weird noises in the walls.
Lucy suspects it’s wolves, but her family ignores her concerns.
Once the wolves come through the walls and take over Lucy’s house, she has to find the courage and skills to develop a plan to get the wolves out and her home back.
“I think this is a show that will surprise local audiences,” Daigle said in an email Friday.
“It’s more than just a ‘kid’s show’ or a ‘children’s theatre’ piece. I think the piece is emotionally satisfying as well as entertaining, and adults will connect with it in a whole different way than their kids.”
Marie Diaz, project director, said the play will have a cast of about 30 people and will incorporate 28 puppets, including the wolves.
She brought Daigle in to adapt Gaiman’s work last year after she secured the rights to hold eight performances.
“I think it’s a perfect fit, especially with this approach,” Daigle said. “It hits all the things you need to make good theatre. There are big, imaginative visual possibilities. There are compelling characters. And there’s a powerful narrative holding the whole thing together.”
To create the wolves and the other puppets, Diaz brought in Wanderlust Theatre Company, which is a Gulf Coast based company that specializes in using nontraditional elements such as puppetry in its performances.
Wanderlust Cofounder Elsa Dimitriadis said the performance will feature puppets ranging from shadow puppetry in the Greek tradition, which uses painted puppets instead of silhouettes, to a Chinese kite-style of puppetry, which will involve a large bat that will move along a zip line.
The performance will also feature traditional hand and rod puppets and body puppets, which will have large “platformed” feet, extended hands and headdresses.
All the puppets will be built in Burke-Hawthorne Hall by Wanderlust crew members and volunteers.
“Were trying to implement as many styles as possible into the show,” Dimitriadis said.
Dimitriadis and Wanderlust cofounder Brady McKellar are both Gaiman fans. McKellar is a “comic book geek” who has read Gaiman’s comic books and Dimitriadis said she loved the author’s fiction.
“So we were completely psyched about it,” Dimitriadis said.
To help fund the project, which is expected to cost about $9,000, Acting Unlimited turned to Kickstarter, which bills itself on its website as “the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.”
The group recently finished a campaign that raised $3,293 for the production.
Diaz said the campaign also helped to develop community involvement and interest in the work.
“If you can’t raise that interest, then you lose more than just the money,” Diaz said. “I mean, you realize that your project has a long way to go in order to build the audience you need to build.”
The group also found an ally in Gaiman, who both donated to the Kickstarter campaign and shared information about it on his Twitter feed.
Gaiman’s donation provided a big morale boost to the production, Diaz said.
“Every dollar we raised was a dollar we didn’t have,” Diaz said.
To adapt the play, Daigle said, he took some liberties with the story by expanding it in ways that were either interesting to him or useful in exploring its stage possibilities.
“The girl wolf in the wolf family now has a strong story of her own that mirrors Lucy’s story. And we found ways to visualize small moments in the book that take advantage of the theatre’s unique magic,” Daigle said.
Carrie Shick, a ULL senior in theater, will play Lucy.
“I think it’s going to be really, really fun, especially for kids,” Shick said Thursday.
The 21-year-old actor said she has not had an opportunity to work with puppets, although she is well-versed in acting with kids. As drama club president for her high school, Shick said she often had opportunities to mentor and tutor young actors.
“I’m very excited for this production and I hope that everyone can bring their grandpa and their little ones,” Shick said. “Everyone should come and see it because it’s going to be fun to watch.”
The show will run July 26 through Aug. 5 on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
Tickets are $10.
For more information, visit http://actingunlimitedinc.org.