In its 14th year, Lacey Loves to Read starts a new chapter with its first theatrical presentation.
Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre will perform Feb. 2 its adaptation of “Last Stop on Market Street,” a 2016 Newbery Medal-winning picture book by Matt de la Peña, this year’s featured author.
In “Last Stop,” young CJ and his grandmother, whom he calls Nana, are riding the bus after church. CJ feels sad that they don’t have a car, an MP3 player or other things that other people have. Nana helps him appreciate what he does have.
“At the very end, there’s a message of hope and a message of giving back,” said Annie DiMartino, Book-It’s director of education. “It’s a beautiful idea.” DiMartino adapted the book for the theater’s educational program, which performs plays for young audiences throughout the state and sometimes beyond.
The play, performed in a combination of English and Spanish, is intended to appeal to children in kindergarten through sixth grade.
“What I found to be a fun challenge was: How do we take this picture book, which could be read, in theory, in 10 minutes, and expand it to a 25- or 30-minute performance that could hold the attention of 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds?” she said.
Her answer: Create a frame story. The actors begin as commedia-inspired clowns, who pick up the book and then become its characters.
Much of the action revolves around one-man ensemble Douglas Fries, who plays the bus driver and all of the passengers encountered by CJ (Jordi Montes) and Nana (Angelica Duncan).
Fries makes his many transitions with lots of costumes and props, reverting back to his mysterious clown persona between characters.
“Doug goes through I want to say 15 different changes,” DiMartino said. “Sometimes it’s just with a hat or sometimes it’s with a scarf around the shoulders or with a guitar that he pulls on or a jacket. They’re fast enough that he can do them on stage and hold the attention of the students.”
The audience will be a part of the action, too, helping to set the scene when the bus — represented on stage by boxes on wheels — reaches a stop.
The book describes the bus as sighing, sagging and creaking to a halt, she said. “Those are such juicy words. We’ve assigned gestures and movements, and we’re going to ask our audience to participate every single time the bus comes to a stop.
“It’s a really cool interactive piece that we’ve found our audiences are really enjoying.”
While the performance is aimed at children, de la Peña of Seattle has also written books for older readers, which — along with his Newbery Medal and the diverse characters he writes about — is part of the reason he was a good fit for the program. Lacey Loves to Read is a collaboration between North Thurston Public Schools, Lacey Timberland Regional Library, the City of Lacey and Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re a pretty diverse school district, so we like to feature diverse authors,” said school district spokeswoman Courtney Schrieve. “And we’re looking to get middle-school and high-school students more involved.”
The event, sponsored by Friends of the Lacey Timberland Regional Library, will include a Scholastic book sale to raise money for Lacey Loves to Read and the opportunity to explore — and read inside — a parked Intercity Transit bus.
“We contacted Intercity Transit, and they were all over the idea of partnering with us for this event,” said Jeannette Sieler of the city’s Parks & Recreation Department. “Kids can hop on the bus and read a book before the performance.”
“For years, my kids had never been on a city bus,” Schrieve said. “They’d been on a school bus, but that’s different.”
Families are also invited to ride the bus to the event for free.
“This is turning into a lot going on for this little night event that was brand new this year,” Sieler said.
Last Stop on Market Street
What: Seattle’s Book-It Repertory Theatre presents an adaption of the Newbery Medal winner by Matt de la Peña, the featured author for the 14th annual Lacey Loves to Read.
When: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 2, with the performance beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Lacey Community Center, 6729 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey.
Information: 360-491-3860, nthurston.k12.wa.us/read.
Getting there: Intercity Transit is offering free rides between 4-8 p.m. on regular bus routes leading to the Lacey Community Center. Just say “Lacey Loves to Read.” Plan your route at intercitytransit.com.
Other Lacey Loves to Read events
Teen Open Mic Night: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 14, Forrey’s Forza Coffee, 130 Marvin Road SE, Lacey. North Thurston Public Schools students will share original writings inspired by de la Peña’s work. Free.
Meet the Author: 6-8 p.m. Feb. 16, Lacey Community Center. De la Peña will speak and sign his books, and the River Ridge High School Choir will perform. Free.