By Brianna Stacks
Theatre Northeast is preparing for its annual children’s play produced each holiday season for thousands of area children. Theatre Northeast Director Douglas Hoppock and his company have produced these plays for 25 years with the hope that each child in attendance can feel the magic of theatre and its wonders. The students will be bused in from the surrounding community schools to be treated to the hard work and dedication of the theatre department.
Although the children’s play has become a tradition here and will continue for years to come, there is a significant change amongst Theatre Northeast; this will be Douglas Hoppock’s last children’s play.
From the very start of the college, Hoppock has been the theatre director and professor over Theatre Northeast for 30 years. In 1985, the year the college opened, Hoppock produced the college’s very first children’s play, You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, in the sanctuary of a nearby church. Due to the lack of space, however, another children’s play wasn’t performed until 1991 when the Whatley Center was built.
The choosing of this year’s play was a difficult task for Hoppock. “I can get real emotional about the thoughts of this being the last one for me,” he said. “It means so much to me. These are memory times for me and everything I do right now is going into that memory bank. So I want it all to be perfect. Which is why it took so long for me to pick a play.”
For this year’s play, Theatre Northeast is producing Gooney Bird Greene and Her True Life Adventures, the tale of a peculiar young girl and the telling of her unbelievable stories in a comedic, cute, and fun play. The producing of this play is bittersweet for Hoppock as he recalls all the memories he has from the last 30 years.
“It is ironic. When we did this show six years ago, I had one of the best experiences I have ever had with an audience member,” he recalled. Hoppock witnessed an unforgettable simple act of kindness between one of the student actors and a small child in a wheelchair. The two hugged and exchanged necklaces. The student gave the little girl the priceless gift of Gooney Bird Greene’s necklace while the child handed the student a simple handmade necklace.
“For the rest of the shows we had, Rachael (Gooney Bird Greene) wore that little girl’s necklace,” Hoppock said. “To see that little girl’s day made, her week even, was just one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.”
Hoppock said he has high hopes for the upcoming play. “I always want my shows to be the best,” he said. “For my cast, it is like being a child all over again. I want it to stoke their imagination and creativity. Gooney Bird is like a hero to young children. She turns the children toward education and even makes people better people. I want this to be very enjoyable to the children.”
Gooney Bird Greene and Her True Life Adventures will open in the Whatley Center on Dec. 2 through 4, but only for children of the surrounding areas. Public performances will be on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 6 at 2:05 p.m.
Tickets will be $7 for adults, $5 for age 17 and under, senior citizens, and NTCC employees, and free for NTCC students with current ID. For more information, call the Whatley Box Office at 903-434-8181.