A preview of "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" will be presented Sunday, Jan. 12, at 2:30 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Center for the Arts. The show, directed by Richard Lawrence and featuring Brooks Dewberry, J.C. Patterson, Kathryn Dawkins, Jeff Buchwald and Betty Jo Mahaffey, will be the competition piece entered by the Center Players Community Theatre in the Mississippi Theatre Association 2020 Festival this month.
A preview of "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" will be presented Sunday, Jan. 12, at 2:30 p.m. and Monday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Center for the Arts. The show, directed by Richard Lawrence and featuring Brooks Dewberry, J.C. Patterson, Kathryn Dawkins, Jeff Buchwald and Betty Jo Mahaffey, will be the competition piece entered by the Center Players Community Theatre in the Mississippi Theatre Association 2020 Festival this month.
The Center Players Community Theatre is sharing its journey to competition with a china rabbit.

As the five actors, under the direction of Richard Lawrence, prepare for the Mississippi Theatre Association 2020 Festival, they will present their hour-long production of “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” to the public this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and Monday at 7:00 p.m. at Madison Square Center for the Arts. Tickets are $5 and available at the door beginning 30 minutes ahead of show time.

Adapted for the stage, the beloved children’s book by Kate Dicamillo, follows the tale of a haughty toy porcelain rabbit in his travels as he learns about loss and recovery, kindness and compassion.

“This is Edward’s journey to understanding what it is to love,” Lawrence said.

Four of the actors play a variety of roles – a hobo, a dog, a fisherman and his wife, children and dolls, among others. “Each character has to be so distinct because they are playing so many parts,” the director said. 

The actors are Betty Jo Mahaffey, Kathryn Dawkins, J.C. Patterson and Brooks Dewberry, who supplies the music with his mandolin and fiddle. The fifth actor in the show is Jeff Buchwald who presents the thoughts of the rabbit Edward to the audience.

“In this play, the storyteller explains that Edward has his own thoughts, but nobody else on stage can hear them.  The audience, however, can hear everything Edward is thinking through the wonderful performance of Jeff Buchwald,” said Mahaffey, who starts out as The Traveler, a storyteller who shares Edward’s story.



“All of the actors use small costume pieces when they change characters, but the main change you will see is in posture and different voices used. The dialogue also explains the characters who are being portrayed,” she said.

As a teacher, Mahaffey would read the award-winning book to her students. “I love Kate DiCamillo's writing and her rich characters. Her books are all wonderful to read aloud. The students can relate to the emotions that she uses in her stories, and there are always important life lessons taught through the books.”

Edward, a vain and beautiful, well-dressed toy, starts life in the 1920s as a gift to a girl named Abilene who adores him. He is lost overboard on an ocean liner and spends 297 days under water before being rescued. Through decades, Edward travels a tumultuous journey into many different situations with the help of people he meets along the way. He learns what it is to love, to lose that love and to find the courage to love again.

Parents may want to carry a tissue with them because there are moments of sorrow, illness and death in the story. “It is very bittersweet, but it ends in an uplifting way,” Lawrence said.

The two upcoming performances are designed to help the Center Players’ troupe prepare for the Jan. 18 performance at the MTA festival in Oxford. The performance piece must last no longer than an hour and be enacted inside a 10-by-10 foot area on stage.

At the 2019 MTA Festival, the Center Players’ performance of “Tea for Three” won the top prize for Best Performance and five other awards, leading them to the regional competition at the Southeastern Theatre Conference.