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Morning Sun
  • THREE FOR THE SHOW

  • There have been dozens of adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” including the Disney cartoon with its bouncy music. Did the world actually need one more?

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  • There have been dozens of adaptations of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” including the Disney cartoon with its bouncy music. Did the world actually need one more?
    And would the three longtime friends working on the project end up hating each other?
    Yes and no.
    Dr. Cynthia Allan, Linden Little and Megan Westhoff are pleased with their original adaptation of “The Jungle Book,” which opened Thursday at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium, and will continue at 8 p.m. today and Saturday.
    “And our friendship is 10 times more cemented than before,” said Allan, chairman of the Pittsburg State University communication department.
    Their first step in the process was to go back to the source and read Kipling’s classic stories about Mowgli, the baby who is lost in the jungle and adopted by a wolf pack. At the end, Mowgli must leave his wolf parents and animal friends, and return to the human world.
    “I hadn’t read ‘The Jungle Book’ before, and didn’t realize how dark and depressing it was,” Westhoff said.
    “This is totally a coming of age story,” Allan said. “Somebody who came to watch a technical rehearsal was crying at the end. But we all have to go out in the world and take our place in the world. What better thing can you do with a child than send it out into the world with love?”
    All three of the playwrights were doing other things while writing the play. Allan her duties, Westhoff is an adjunct PSU faculty member, and Little is a graduate student and employed as a technical assistant at Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium.
    “We set aside a three-hour block of time each week, and each of us took a different scene to work on,” Allan said. “Then we’d come back, share our scenes and discuss revisions.”
    “I was worried when we started about having three different voices not going together,” Little said. “But it was a lot of fun to come back each week. Each scene was like a present.”
    “We really didn’t have separate voices, because we tried to keep Kipling’s voice,” Allan said. “My idea of doing children’s classics is to that I want to give them the literature. Maybe they might want to read it some day.”
    “I’m proud of keeping Rasha in,” Little said. “It was fun to bring out a character who had been hidden in plain sight.”
    Rasha is the she-wolf who adopts Mowgli as her own cub and protects him from Shere Khan, the tiger who wants to kill and devour the baby. Rasha curses the striped cat, saying that one day Mowgli will kill him. The she-wolf and her curse are usually left out of modern adaptations, perhaps because it’s considered a bit strong for a children’s story.
    Page 2 of 2 - “But it still turned out kind of family friendly, with the music and the humorous things in it,” Little said. “We always knew we had those things to lighten it.”
    They created a narrator to help the story move along. “Each narration is a page turned,” Little said.
    Allan does the narration and also directs the play.
    “I think it helps that all three of us are directors,” she said. “We knew the mechanics of theater.”
    “It was like I was directing and writing in my head,” Little said. “We got three-dimensional characters because we were thinking in three dimensions.”
    “It also helped that we knew what theater we were going to use,” Allan added.
    “I don’t think we’d be as strong without Pittsburg Memorial Auditorium,” Little said.
    He and Westhoff have both grown up in Pittsburg theater and have a deep affection for the auditorium.
    “I work here now and I feel like a caretaker of a tradition,” Little said. “I’ve never worked in anything but theater.”
    Westhoff said that some people have been dubious about young people wanting to make a career in theater.
    “People ask, ‘Are you going to teach or are you going to live in a box?’” she said.
    “I want to teach and do theater. I wouldn’t want to do any job, even where I was getting paid millions of dollars, if I hated it.”
    Allan, who came to Pittsburg in 1999, said that she grew up in a metropolitan area with an thriving artistic community.
    “I get questions from friends about how can I do theater in Pittsburg, Kansas, like I must be the only artist here,” Allan said. “There are wonderful artists in small towns, and I could not be happier with the artists I have around me here.”
    That includes Westhoff and Little.
    “I wrote my first improv piece in 1998 in college, a one-act play and it was terrible,” Allan said. “I never got the idea that writing a play would be fun, but this I did with my theater friends at it was fun. This was my first collaboration, and it was a wonderful experience. I’ve been thinking about what we could do next.”

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