Photo: A young Jane Goodall making field notes. Courtesy of the Jane Goodall Institute | Hugo van Lawick
The cast and production staff have been announced for the Chicago premiere of “Me…Jane: The Dreams and Adventures of Young Jane Goodall,” an original musical about the world-renowned humanitarian, conservationist, and animal activist.
Jane Goodall’s discovery in 1960 that chimpanzees make and use tools rocked the scientific world and redefined the relationship between humans and animals. In 1977, she established the Jane Goodall Institute to advance her work around the world. Drawn from true anecdotes from her biography, the play introduces family audiences to a young Jane Goodall, before she was an international acclaimed eco-warrior.
As a little girl, Jane had a toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. Together, Jane and Jubilee went on outdoor adventures and observed the miracles of nature around them – from her beloved dog Rusty, to the chickens on her farm, to the squirrels in the forest. As they made more and more discoveries on their expeditions, Jane dreamed of spending the rest of her life living with and helping animals. And one day, she would go on to do just that. “The idea of bringing Me…Jane to the stage is very exciting. I love the book and I’m sure that the live action will inspire children of all ages to pursue their dreams and to realize if Jane did it, they can do it, too,” said Goodall.
The musical is based on the book Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell. It was adapted for the stage by Andy Mitton, Patrick McDonnell and Aaron Posner. Music and lyrics are by Andy Mitton. Me…Jane was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and was first produced at the Kennedy Center during the 2017-18 season.
Chicago Children’s Theatre’s production is directed and choreographed by Ericka Mac. Andra Velis Simon is music director and arranger. Elizabeth Stenholt plays the title role, Jane. The cast also features Ann Delaney, Joe Dempsey, Ben Kaye and Leslie Ann Shepherd.
The production team is Chelsea Warren (scenic design), Mealah Heidenreich (properties design), Rachel Healy (costume design), Becca Jeffords (lighting design), Kevin O’Donnell (sound design), Yeaji Kim (projection design), Jamie Abelson (casting director), Rebecca St. Hyss (production stage manager) and Jennifer Gregory and Katy Garcia (assistant stage managers).
“During the show, audiences will see how many of the people around Jane during her childhood discouraged her from pursuing her interest in science and studying animals,” said Jacqueline Russell, Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre. “They’ll also see that with encouragement from a few supportive people (and animals) around her, she finds the strength to pursue and achieve her wildest dreams. I hope that all children will see themselves in Jane, and particularly with this piece, that young girls will see themselves in Jane, and that they will feel like anything is possible.”
School performances start March 31. Public performances are April 4 – April 26, 2020: Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tickets are $13-$35. Run time is 60 minutes, no intermission. Me Jane is recommended for ages six and up. For tickets and information, visit chicagochildrenstheatre.org or call CCT Guest Services, (312) 374-8835. Note: No show Easter Sunday, April 12.