Mary Poppins silhouette

The Surprising Magic of Mary Poppins

Tracey Columns

Local folks … looking for some enchanting summer entertainment for people of all ages? Mark your calendar for Humboldt Light Opera Company’s summer production, Mary Poppins!

Most of us only know of the popular movie version of Mary Poppins. But the adaptation of this endearing story to the stage has a slightly different orientation. Based on the books by P.L.Travers, Mary is carried onto Number 17 Cherry Tree Lane by the wind so that she can tend to everyone in this somewhat estranged little family.

While the stage production is just as fun filled as the movie version — yes, beloved characters will fly — it also offers audiences the additional opportunity to see the magic of human connection at work. With points made about not judging others, caring for your family, and supporting one another, it is a story especially fitting for today’s culture.

While I have the fun of playing Miss Lark, one of the residents of Cherry Tree Lane, I’m also really looking forward to my role as one of the judges for the Mary Poppins Writing Contest! Designed for kids and adults alike, the contest is a wonderful opportunity to get creative, be imaginative, and have some fun!

There are five different age brackets, each one having its own story/poem prompt. (If your children or grandchildren aren’t writing yet, no worries. They can dictate their stories to you.)  The prompts are:

K-3rd Grade: Mary Poppins takes Michael and Jane to the park where great magic happens all around them! Write a short story about a magical adventure in a park.

4th to 6th Grade: One day, the wind suddenly delivers Mary Poppins to the Banks’ house on Cherry Tree Lane. If someone magical could be blown into your house by the wind, who would you like that to be and why?

7th and 8th Grade: Mary Poppins changes the lives of everyone in the Banks’ family, children and adults alike. Have you ever had someone like Mary Poppins in your life? Who was that? What impact did she/he on you? What would your life be like without that knowing this person?

9th to 12th Grade: Mary Poppins tells her charges, Jane and Michael, that “anything is possible if you can only get out of your own way.” What does she mean by this? Do you agree or disagree with her? Can you apply this to your own life?

18 years and up: The stage production of Mary Poppins is truly a story for all ages because this beloved character succeeds in bringing the entire Banks family closer. Unfortunately, many of todayʼs families are experiencing a similar kind of disconnection with one another. If you had all of the magical, and very wise capabilities of Mary, how would you remedy this situation for so many families in our culture?

The contest winners will receive four tickets to the opening weekend of the show at HSU’s Van Duzer Theatre, as well as a backstage tour and the opportunity to meet Mary, Bert, and other cast members. (Miss Lark and her dear Admiral Boom will be there too!)

I encourage parents and grandparents to participate! Something very powerful can happen when an adult in a child’s life models the fun of writing. Besides, writer to writer, this contest is a great way for you to explore your own creative process. Remember, as Mary and the entire cast sing, “anything can happen if you let it!”

Not for you? Then perhaps you’d like to join me and Carol Ryder, the director of  Mary Poppins for “The Magic of Mary Poppins,” a short OLLI course that takes you behind the scenes of this wonderful show.  (July 25, 10:30 at The SPACE and also at HSU’s Van Duzer Theater.)

You’ll learn about the Australian actress, journalist, and author P.L. Travers, how creative decisions are made and production challenges are managed. I’ll share with you a cast member’s perspective on the production process. (Trust me … it’s a whirlwind!) In addition to the one class session, you’re also invited to sit in on a technical and the dress rehearsal. You’ll also receive a ticket to the opening night performance. Space is limited. For more information or to register call OLLI at 826-5880.

One way or another, whether by reading your contest submission, having you in class, or as audience member, I hope we connect this summer!

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