Some relationships are steamy from the start, but the most fruitful unions tend to have longer courtships. Such, according to Stan Foote, was the wooing by his Oregon Children's Theatre of Lois Lowry, the Newbery-Award-winning author of children's novels with weighty, life-and-death themes usually reserved for adult fiction.
Foote and Lowry met when Lowry was in town to speak in conjunction with the Children's Theatre's Drammy-winning 2006 adaptation of her book The Giver. Foote enjoyed her company: "We had fun together. I love her books. I love Lois' mind more than anything." He asked if she'd consider penning her own script, leading to a prolonged email dalliance and eventual three-day stay for Foote at Lowry and her husband's farm in Maine. The result, nearly three years later, is Gossamer, which opens Saturday at the Winningstad Theatre.
While Lowry has had other books performed onstage, this is the first script she's written herself. It forced her, she says, to rein herself in.
"You lose some of the freedom you have as a writer of fiction [writing for the stage]," Lowry told WW. "The writer has to stop and think: 'Wait, can he get from here to there? And what will the set look like there? And will he be able to change costumes?'"
Of all the books Lowry has written, why was Gossamer, a novel about dream-giving fairies visiting a boy abused by his father, the one she chose to adapt?
"This book, along with the trilogy that begins with The Giver, are the books of mine that most address interior questions that haunt me," Lowry says. They consider what she calls the "one theme…in all good literature": the complexities and responsibilities of human relationships. But maybe most importantly for Lowry, it was a tale of dreams.
When her son Grey, a military pilot, died in a plane crash in 1995, she was haunted by nightmares of a flaming wreck she never saw. Over time, the nightmares turned into positive remembrances of his smiling visage.
"I think it was probably no accident or whimsy that when I sat down in 2004 to write a book [it was] about the power of memory and imagination to heal," Lowry says.
Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, 228-9571. 2 and 5 pm Saturdays-Sundays and 7 pm Friday, Oct. 24. Closes Nov. 9. $16-$24.