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Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2010

‘The Thief Lord’ Comes to First Stage

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Cornelia Funke’s novel The Thief Lord is hardly the type of book one would expect to be adapted for children’s theater. Indeed, the story of two brothers who run away to Venice, Italy, and join a band of juvenile thieves breaks from the popular impression of children’s theater as the stuff of wholesome, harmless fairy tales. First Stage Children’s Theater tackles the challenge of bringing Funke’s story to life this week as it stages James DeVita’s adaptation of the novel.

Much like Funke’s popular novel Inkheart, The Thief Lord has a moral complexity often found lacking in the works of other children’s book authors. There may be simple good and evil in Funke’s work, but the text blurs the lines between them. In The Thief Lord,brothers Prosper and Boniface are orphaned following the death of their mother. When it becomes clear that only one of them is to be adopted by their aunt and uncle, the two head to Venice, where they wind up working for the title character. The prospect of stealing to make ends meet raises an interesting moral dilemma, as the brothers deal with theft and deception in order to survive together.

Director Jeff Frank will draw audiences into this complex story through a carefully crafted adventure.

“All of the characters are hiding something, and what better place to set such a tale than the maze-like city of wonder: Venice,” Frank says.

The atmosphere in such a play is absolutely essential, and First Stage’s production value should add a great deal of depth to TheThief Lord. The experienced talents of scenic designer Sarah Hunt-Frank and lighting designer Jason Fassl will recreate Venice for this production. Costume designer Pamela J. Rehberg, who did an impressive job with the costuming for UW-Milwaukee’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, should ably capture the fantasy of the story. In addition to child actors from the First Stage Children’s Theater program, a talented adult cast includes Drew Brhel, Joe Foust, Tom Bruno and Braden Moran.

First Stage’s Thief Lord runs Jan. 22 – Feb. 14 at the Marcus Center’s Todd Wehr Theater.

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