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Author-illustrator Maurice Sendak’s classic children’s picture book, Where the Wild Things Are, which has sold over 19 million copies since it was first published in 1963, is to receive its first major full-length stage play adaptation.
The project was commissioned by the Maurice Sendak Foundation — devoted to promoting public interest in and understanding of the literary, illustrative and theatrical arts as well as furthering the artistic legacy of the author, who died in 2012 — and will be developed by New York’s New Victory Theater, the premier off-Broadway performing arts nonprofit devoted entirely to entertainment for families and kids.
Sendak’s friend and collaborator Arthur Yorinks is attached to adapt the script. While the New Victory primarily functions as a presenting house, showcasing children’s theater from across the country and around the world, Where the Wild Things Are marks its first venture into original production.
“Where the Wild Things Are is Maurice’s most renowned book and we are regularly approached to recreate it for the stage,” said Maurice Sendak Foundation president Lynn Caponera. “It was imperative to us that we develop a version that remains true to his vision. We chose Arthur because he has a unique perspective that can accurately expand on what Maurice’s book implies both literally and symbolically.”
Sendak’s book, winner of the Caldecott Medal from children’s librarians in 1964, has captivated multiple generations with its story of a young boy sent to bed without supper after wreaking havoc in his family’s home while dressed up in a wolf costume. Alone in his bedroom, he escapes into a vivid fantasy world, a jungle island inhabited by wild beasts who befriend him and proclaim him their king.
The new stage version follows a 1973 animated short film, a 1984 children’s opera by British composer Oliver Knussen, and a 2009 live-action film directed by Spike Jonze, who wrote the screenplay with Dave Eggers. It also was memorably spoofed in a 2005 episode of The Simpsons titled The Girl Who Slept Too Little.
No timeline has been set for the New Victory stage production, for which the full creative team will be announced at a later date.
“For many of the young people who come to see the show at The New Victory, Where the Wild Things Are will be their very first theatrical experience,” said Cora Cahan, president of The New 42nd Street, the cultural revitalization organization that supports The New Victory. “We aim to make a stage work worthy of the book that will capture the imagination of both adults and kids.”
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