Baldwin's children's play debuts at Georgia Shakespeare Festival
By Kathleen Walker
Kennesaw State University lecturer in playwriting Margaret Baldwin "couldn't be happier" about the debut of her original play “Tom Thumb the Great” at the Georgia Shakespeare Festival. “Georgia Shakespeare is one of the best companies in Atlanta," she says, "and I’ve been thrilled with the collaboration.”
The play tells the story of the folk character Tom Thumb, a tiny hero who must battle giants and an evil queen in order to win the heart of a princess. Although the story takes place in the 18th-century’s age of reason, the belief in magic and mystery is one of the central themes. A deeper message runs through the classic tale—to be true to oneself. “The play is just a fun, fun piece,” Baldwin explains. “It has love, battles, puppets and magic, offering visual candy for younger kids with lots of humor for older kids and adults. It’s truly a family affair.”
The KSU staged reading of
"Tom Thumb the Great"
Baldwin began working on the play during a May-session course at Kennesaw State last summer. As inspiration she drew from original Tom Thumb folktales and a play by Henry Fielding. “The course gave students the chance to learn puppetry and physical theater while toying around with the material for the play,” she says. One of the students in the course, Scottie Rowell, is now co-designer of the shadow puppets for this summer’s performances.
Staged readings of the play were also held with the Georgia Shakespeare Intern Company and with Kennesaw State during the summer and fall 2007. “After each reading, the work grew,” says Baldwin. “The script was in good shape, but there were things I needed to change.” Even after the workshops, the play continued to evolve. “It’s important to hear the play read aloud so in May I had a gathering with the actors and we went through a few more rewrites.”
After the last set of rewrites, Baldwin turned the play over to Georgia Shakespeare director Clint Thornton. The collaboration involved in putting the play together did not end there, however. “We have people from the Center for Puppetry Arts, Georgia Shakespeare and students and my fellow colleagues from Kennesaw State,” Baldwin says. “This project should serve as a model for bringing together artists from different theaters. It’s made for an amazing production.”
“Tom Thumb the Great” runs from July 18 through Aug. 2. Ticket prices are $10 to $12 with two-for-one Target family nights on July 22 and July 29. For more information, please visit www.gashakespeare.org or call the Georgia Shakespeare Box Office at 404-264-0020.