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all for One emphasizes faith, family, fun

New production at ArtsLab appeals to all age groups

Thom Hofrichter

Thom Hofrichter

Whatzup Features Writer

Published April 13, 2022

all for One productions closes their 2021-22 season at the PPG ArtsLab Black Box Theater with The Princess and the Goblin.

Don’t be fooled by the title. Although it may sound like children’s theater, it is more accurately described by all for One as an “all-ages show.” Or to put it another way, this is family theater!

The Princess and the Goblin is a show that can be enjoyed by all, regardless of your age. The goal is for each audience member to enjoy it on their own terms.

I think it’s best described by comparing it to The Muppet Show. I remember that TV program as being every bit as enjoyable to adults as it was for children. And The Princess and the Goblin, regardless of your age, will have you leaving the theater with a smile on your face and several important lessons rattling around in your head.

19th Century Material

The source material on which Sandra Fenichel Asher based her stage adaptation was a short novel by Protestant minister George MacDonald. MacDonald was tubercular most of his life, and therefore his health prevented him from having his own parish. So, he ministered to the world with his writings. He was known for his novels, sermons, and poetry. The work he is best known for is The Princess and the Goblin.

Originally published in 1872, his book has been popular with generations of children and parents. It is usually described as a fable or fantasy. Some literary scholars say there is a direct connection to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, believing his creation of Middle Earth fantasies The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings were influenced by MacDonald’s book.

The plot revolves around Princess Irene being sent to a remote castle in the country for her safekeeping, as the kingdom has become a violent and dangerous place. Unfortunately, the most dangerous enemies of the kingdom, the goblins, live under the mountain the castle sits on, and they are plotting to kidnap the young princess so they can force her into a marriage with the goblin prince.

The storytelling works on many levels. It alternates comedic and downright silly scenes that are very funny, then takes the audience on a mysterious journey that leaves them trying to figure out what will happen next. And at times it moves forward like a swashbuckling action adventure.

Fulfilling Mission

While the text of the script moves briskly along, all for One has found ways to tell the story in unique and inventive ways.

Original music has been composed to underscore the action of the play. Puppets were envisioned and created especially for this production.

In addition, wonderful dances have been choreographed, so the story is also told through movement.

In keeping with one of all for One’s missions — to serve young performing artists in Fort Wayne — the team of artists includes Torilinn Cwanek, 19, who created the original music; Lucas Bowman, 14, who brings to life the goblin puppets; and Alli Cwanek, 16, who was one of the choreographers.

And while the cast includes six adults, the rest of the performers are between the ages of 10 and 18, many coming from the same families.

all for One believes a “family show” means wonderful theater for a family to see together, but also a production that provides families the chance to work together.

Keeping the Faith

When talking to all for One’s artistic director and director of this production, Lauren E. Nichols, on the phone, I could tell she was excited about the collaborative effort between young people and adults and the chance for families to create together. But her voice took flight when she talked about the main message of the story.

Princess Irene is given a magic ring by her grandmother. She is told that when she is in trouble, a barely visible thread will connect to the ring, and if she follows that thread it will lead her to safety. And even when she can’t understand why the thread seems to be taking her to places which are more dangerous, without fail it always guides her through the dangers and brings her out to the other side unscathed.

Holding on to this thread is a metaphor for belief, or faith. And even in the worst of times, holding on to what you believe will lead you through your trials and tribulations to someplace safe.

For those who have always wondered, the “One” is the only word capitalized in “all for One productions” because this is a theater company that springs from a faith in God, and they do theater to honor the One in whom they have faith.

This play is a perfect choice for a theater company whose purpose is to explore and proclaim their faith. It has a beautiful message told in an immensely creative and entertaining way. And, it is a perfect show for the whole family to see, to enjoy as entertainment, then to talk about.


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