Kenneth Grahame’s madcap comedy about Toad’s adventures was never intended to be a children’s story. When Wind in the Willows was published, neither the author nor the publisher ever suggested that it was.
However, it has become one of youth literature’s most iconic stores. One reason for its popularity is that Willows is a comedy that can be enjoyed, on different levels, by both adults and youth.
The characters and the comedy in the story is based in human behavior. Shy Mole, wise Badger, brave Rat, and impulsive and boasting Toad are based on real people. Shy Mole is based on Grahame himself and Toad is based on his impulsive son, who would often pick fights with other children or lay in the road to stop cars, just of the pure mischief of it all. This was one of the reasons Fort Wayne Youtheatre chose to adapt and produce Willows. It is a smart story, relatable on all levels, that uses human behavior to create great comedy.
Willows was also chosen because of its central theme of kindness and the Kindness Project from Charlotte Children’s Theatre. For their 2018-19 season, Charlotte Children’s Theatre produced three works that had kindness and “the power that simple acts of kindness hold” as their central theme. The Kindness Project was an ambitious endeavor that came about as a way to “create a kinder world.”
Willows is filled with acts of kindness: Rat befriending Mole on Mole’s first day above ground. Badger opening his home to the two Hedgehog children lost in the snow. And even though Toad may be “conceited and boastful,” Toad’s friends stick by him and work to help Toad become a better person.
This message of the life-changing effects of kindness threads its way through all of the shows in our 85th season, from Frozen Jr., to Building the Dream: MLK Jr. and our final show, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
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March 27 • The Clyde