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Friday, November 24, 2017

The Magic of Jane Goodall at the Kennedy Center

Written by  Frankie Kujawa
Erin Weaver & her Teddy Monkey Erin Weaver & her Teddy Monkey

The girlhood of famous primate researcher brought to song & stage

Before she was a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, and animal activist, Dr. Jane Goodall was a little girl with a very special toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. Together, Jane and Jubilee went on outdoor adventures and observed all the miracles of nature around them. As they learned more and more 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. Me… Jane: The Dreams & Adventures of Young Jane Goodall, the brand new musical adaptation, brings Goodall’s story to children of all ages at the Kennedy Center running until December 10th.

With anecdotes taken directly from Jane Goodall’s autobiography, this adaptation makes this very true story accessible for the young – and young at heart. Baltimore OUTloud recently chatted with Erin Weaver who plays Young Jane. The six-time Helen Hayes Award-winner exuberantly described her role. “I play Young Jane Goodall in the musical. Basically, the adapters of the book: Andy Mitton, Patrick McDonnell, and Aaron Posner adapted this musical from the Caldecott Award-winning book Me … Jane by Patrick McDonnell. It’s a sweet book that captures the essence of Goodall’s childhood and the curious kid that she was at the time. She was so connected to animals and nature at a young age. “

Weaver went on to explain that Goodall’s curiosity sometimes got the better of her. “The adapters played with the story a bit and have turned those childhood moments into stories. For example, she was very curious where eggs came from, and she spent hours one day hiding in her grandmother’s hen house to see. Meanwhile, her family was worried about her and neighbors were out looking for because the family couldn’t find her. When she ran home, her mother didn’t scold her. She sat her down and said ‘Wow, tell me about your discovery.’ Jane talks about that it was so important for her mother not to squash her scientific sensibilities and her curiosity of science and nature. Instead of scolding her, her mother allowed her to share the discoveries from that day.”

Having the Goodall stamp-of-approval was also something very important for the cast, as well. “We were lucky to meet with Jane for two hours in September and film some scenes with her. We got a lot of great interview questions and footage and some we use in the show. She’ll be at opening night for the show, as well. She invited us all to the National Geographic Society to screen her movie. She has been very kind and supportive of the musical. She has this incredible presence that’s so inspiring!”

The production is a must-see for children of all ages. “One of my favorite things about this production,” Weaver added, “is it’s not just something to bring the kids to and then tune out. It’s fun and silly in moments, but it’s inspiring, as well. Jane Goodall is an incredible woman – she’s so inspiring. It has it all in one big package. It’s fun and entertaining to share with your kids, and it’s very moving for adults knowing now who Jane is. The music is also fun to listen to and it can’t get out of your head!”

For more information, such as tickets and show times, visit Kennedy-Center.org.

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