When Star Wars exploded onto the silver screen in 1977, it became not only part of many a young boy’s collective consciousness, but it became a part of pop culture at large and continues to this day.
The University of Lethbridge’s Feb. 14-18 production of Stephen Massicotte’s 1997 play “ The Boy’s own Jedi Handbook,” explores the effect Star Wars had on two boys’ imaginations and their futures.
“ Essentially it follows the life of a character called the Kid and looks at how his childhood was affected by the first two Star Wars movies. So he recreates parts of the Star Wars films and how they relate to his life as a grown up,” said director Jeremy Mason, adding the two boys, played by Colin Bluekens as the Kid and Daniel Perryman as James, try to become Jedi Knights.
“ It’s a feel good, coming of age play that people who grew up in the late ’70s and ’80s will come away feeling very good about,” Mason continued.
They play opened Feb. 14 for close to a sold out audience.
In addition to an impressive performances from “The Kid” Colin Bluekens, who is on stage the entire show and impressively delivers 120 minutes of text and his best friend “James,” Daniel J Perryman, who ably shows the duo’s growing bond over Star Wars, numerous other supplementary characters are played by the always impressive Shelby Wilson and Kathryn Bullock. Much of the play shows how The Kid and James bond by reenacting various scenes from the first two Star Wars movies , bounding all over the stage with childlike enthusiasm.
The ladies play a variety of classmates, siblings, mothers and teachers in the first part, but come into their own as the would be girlfriends of the oblivious and proud young dorks in the second act, in which the Kid and James have grown into young teenagers, excited about the release of the Empire Strikes Back.
Wilson is especially as enjoyable as The Kid’s teacher and director of the Kid’s first play, “ A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Her facial expressions hilarious as usual, even playing as simple a character as the exasperated mother, tolerating her children’s exuberant and endless raving about the first Star Wars movie, without muttering more than three words. She does a great turn as Darth Vader as seen through the Kid’s eyes, confiscating notes passed in class.
Bullock is simply adorable as the determined first girlfriend of the Kid.
“There is a lots of energy and lots of fun. It’s a feel good show,” Mason said, adding you don’t have to have grown up in that era or even be a Star Wars expert in order to enjoy this show.
There are plenty of Star Wars scenes and in jokes like “In the version we play, Hans shot first,” as well as a few nods to the future like who will Leia fall in love with— Han or Luke? Choosing the David Spinks Theatre is an excellent choice as it provides a more intimate experience, as if you are just hanging out with the Kid and James in their back yard, camping out with them being kids together and reliving Star Wars scene by scene. The set features numerous movable pieces, switched around by the cast to reflect different settings like home, the schoolyard ,classrooms, recess, a roller disco rink and their back yards. The stage is set in the second act to look eerily like the Millennium Falcon.
“It’s a main stage play and we were offered the University Theatre. But It was first developed as a play for Fringe Festivals so we thought it would be better for the audience if it were in the David Spinks Theatre,” observed Mason, who played the role of “The Kid” in a production of the play nine years ago. He is excited to return to Lethbridge to direct “A Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook,” in between splitting time between projects in Calgary and Edmonton.
“I played the role of Kid with Kathy Zaborsky in the Sterndale Bennett Theatre. It’s usually done in two parts. We’re doing parts one and two as acts one and two. When I did it we just did part one,” he explained.
They have been rehearsing since Jan. 9 every night , six days a week.
“It’s been fun being back at the U of L to direct a play. It’s been so much fun to work on. And I get to spend my time thinking about Star Wars, which is a pretty awesome job,” enthused Mason, who also spent several years with New West Theatre.
It is a coming of age show. We grow up with the kids, reliving their experience with the first Star Wars, meeting their first best friend, moving to a new school, making new friends, dealing with classroom drama, being cast in the first play and just growing up together.
The second half of the play, set around the era of The Empire Strikes back focuses on the kids getting their first girlfriends and completely missing the signs of interest.
Colin Bluekens is excited to play the Kid.
The second year fine arts major has performed with Shakespeare in the park as well as was in the university’s production of “A Caucasian Chalk Circle” last February.
“It’s about this 30 year old man, who grew up with Star Wars as a kid. He switches from addressing the audience to recreating scenes for Star Wars and about how Star Wars looked through scenes in his life like being cast in a Christmas play or talking to girls in junior high,” Bluekens said, adding the Character looks at his life through Star Wars eyes.
“He’s an actor actually, and when he is on stage it feels like he is like being surrounded by the Force,” Bluekens continued.
“The nice thing is no matter how variable his experiences are, he feels free to play,” he said.
“I hope people will themselves and see how he creates this world through his eyes and remember their childhoods.”
Tickets for The Boy’s Own Jedi Handbook are available at the U of L Box Office, Monday – Friday (12:30 pm – 3:30 pm) or by calling (403) 329-2616. Tickets are also available online: ulethbridge.ca/tickets. Ticket prices are $18 regular, $13 senior/alumni, $12 students.
Purchase tickets online at www.ulethbridge.ca/tickets, at the Box Office, or over the phone 403-329-2616.