Jackie and Me
Seattle Children’s Theatre is deeply honored to bring a story about Civil Rights and professional baseball legend Jackie Robinson to stage with Steven Dietz’s adaptation of the Dan Gutman book, Jackie & Me, directed by Sheila Daniels.
“True heroes are hard to come by in this world, and one with the quiet strength and dignity of Jackie Robinson should never be forgotten,” says SCT Artistic Director Linda Hartzell. “In this time-travel fantasy, acclaimed playwright Steven Dietz takes us to the segregated world of the 1947 Brooklyn Dodgers clubhouse. We get to see the courage it took this one man to help change the landscape of our nation. I hope it inspires and encourages every one of us to stand up for what we believe in and do the right thing, even when just playing a game.”
Young Joey Stoshack has the special power to travel through time by holding a baseball card and concentrating really hard. When he’s given an assignment to write a paper on Jackie Robinson, it only makes sense to head back to 1947 and meet the famous baseball player. During his journey, Joey experiences what it’s like to be African-American during a time of segregation. He witnesses Jackie’s dedication and determination even when people on his own team are against him. The book, one in Gutman’s popular “Baseball Card Adventure” books, is the second adapted by Dietz for SCT.
“After Dan Gutman saw my adaptation of his book, Honus & Me, he was kind enough to offer me my choice of his other books to adapt,” says Dietz. “Since Jackie Robinson had long been a hero around my house, Jackie & Me was an obvious choice – and a daunting one. Robinson is an immensely important historical figure – situated at the crossroads of sport, culture, politics and race – but he was also a man playing a game. A game that raised many of us. A game that connects us with our fathers, and grandfathers. A game that puts history at our fingertips.”
Joe Stoshack loves baseball. He’s not so great at it and he lets the other team rattle him sp he loses his temper, but he loves that game. He’s even got this special power—he can travel through time just by holding a baseball card and concentrating real hard. It’s true! He’s done it before. It only makes sense that when he’s given an assignment—write a report on a famous African-American for Black History Month—he would choose Jackie Robinson.
Jackie was the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues; a really big deal, especially in 1947 when segregation was still everywhere. All Joey needs now is a 1947 Jackie Robinson card and he’s all set. Good thing his friend at the baseball card shop has one he can borrow. Sure, Joe’s mom is worried but it’s for school and she loves that stuff. Later that night, when Joey is getting ready to travel back to 1947, he can’t help thinking, “what must it have been like for him,” to face what he did? Next thing you know, he’s in Brooklyn, 1947. One thing Joey didn’t count on though—now he’s black, too.
As it sometimes happens when you travel through time, Joey lands near one of Jackie’s friends, who is able to introduce Joey to the ballplayer. Jackie is a wonder. Tall, athletic, but he carries a weight on his shoulders, for sure. When Joe gets a ball boy job with the Dodgers he is allowed a first-hand look at what Jackie has to face. The team, the fans, so many people are violently angry that a black man is playing for Dem Bums. But the African-American community is filled with pride and hope. Jackie keeps his temper, plays his game, and eventually begins to win over the rest of the Dodgers’ fans.
Joe is astounded by Jackie’s patience and forbearance. Even when he can’t eat in the hotel restaurants with the rest of the team, even when he gets threatening letters, even when the other teams yell really mean and scary things to him Jackie is strong enough to hold his head high and keep playing the game. What a sight for Joey to see. Facing off against the Philly’s, and the anger of the Philly’s fans and team, finally makes the Dodgers come together, like a real team. But, when that racism also threatens Joey’s safety, he has to make a quick get-away back to present day. Unfortunately, his father was counting on him bringing back some old, and rare, baseball cards; they’d be worth a fortune now. So, back to 1947 it is—this time as a white kid. When Joe arrives in 1947 again, six months have passed and it is toward the end of the World Series. It is great to see Jackie and the rest of the guys again, but sadly, this trip, too, must come to an end. Of course, the lessons Jackie taught Joey will last a lifetime.
Finding the right actor to play Jackie Robinson was key for this production, and SCT conducted a national search before finding Erwin E. A. Thomas. Thomas is an artist and educator who splits time between Seattle and NYC. Jackie & Me is Thomas’ first production with SCT.
Joining Thomas are a number of new and familiar faces to SCT audiences and Seattle theatergoers, including Shawn Belyea, TaLena Bennett, Karina Brossman (also Assistant Director), Peter Crook (last seen in I Was a Rat! and The Wizard of Oz at SCT), Chris Ensweiler (The Borrowers, Go, Dog. Go!), David Goldstein, Noah Green, Tim Hyland (Go, Dog. Go!), David Brown King, and Betsy Schwartz (The Borrowers, The Hundred Dresses). Reginald André Jackson (Night of the Living Dead) will understudy Jackie Robinson, with Ian Bell (The Borrowers), Sarah Harlett (Night of the Living Dead) and Khatt Taylor rounding out the understudies.
Director Daniels is joined by an outstanding production and design team, including Scenic Designer Jennifer Zeyl, Costume Designer Melanie Burgess, Lighting & Projection Designer L. B. Morse, SCT Resident Sound Designer Chris R. Walker, Fight Choreographer Peter Dylan O’Conner and Baseball Coach Ray Gonzalez.
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