Adapted by Laurie Brooks based on the short story IMAGINARY FRIENDS by New York Times Bestselling Author Terry Brooks
Contact Dramatic Publishing Company
A rare excursion into epic fantasy for live theatre that celebrates friendship, courage and the power of imagination. This inspiring hero's journey, filled with magic and wonder, begins when young adult Jack McCall faces a threatening health crisis. His best friend, Waddy, isn't concerned at all, but Jack cannot stop thinking about the death of his Uncle Frank and fears that he might face the same future. Reality blends with fantasy as Jack is guided into nearby Sinnissippi Park to ask for help from the powerful friends he met the the day Uncle Frank died. In this magic realm, Jack faces a vicious troll whose games become dangerous and encounters a huge owl whose irreverent sense of humor is directed at everyone. A Native ghost arrives to connect Jack to the history of the bravery that once lived in the park. An elf guardian, who balances the magic in the park, leads Jack toward finding the courage it will take to face a powerful demon who has escaped from his prison in a massive tree. Jack questions whether this whole adventure is real but when the demon arrives and threatens his friend, Waddy, Jack finds his courage and discovers that facing this adversary might hold the key to fighting his illness.
CAST: 3 men, 3 women, 1 either gender
Photos curtesy of The Coterie Theatre
Nominated for the Distinguished Play Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, 2018.
Winner (as Imaginary Friends) of a John Gassner Memorial Playwriting Award from The New England Theatre Conference, 1992
Developed (as Imaginary Friends) at The Kennedy Center's New Visions New Voices, 1993
"A technologically fantastical venture... creates the kind of material that people desire and opens up conversations they should be having. Laure Brooks' natural tackling of important concepts creates the perfect vehicle for young adults 11 and older."
~ KC Review 2018
EXCERPTED from At Kansas City's Coterie Theatre, Teenagers Face Dystopia of Cancer With Courage By Laura Spencer, Kansas City Star
Playwright Laurie Brooks has tackled challenging subjects for young adults — from the Salem Witch Trials to bullying. Her latest play, in The Secret of Courage, a teenager faces a health crisis with a little help from a magical world. The Secret of Courage blends reality with fantasy as a teenage boy confronts cancer.
"If we look at what young adults are reading now, a lot of it is dystopian, a lot of it is fantasy," says Laurie.
Early in the play, the audience learns that Jack McCall has leukemia. His friend, Waddy, reacts to the news: "Doc didn't say you're dying, because you're not."
"This is certainly a play about friendship," says Laurie. "It's a play about a frightening diagnosis that leads this young person into a magical world, where he needs to find the courage to face it."
The Secret of Courage is based on a short story, "Imaginary Friends," by fantasy writer Terry Brooks — who's also Laurie's older brother. First published in the early 1990s in a collection called Once Upon A Time, Terry says the mandate was to tell a modern fairy tale. "I was looking for something that had fairy tale-ish tropes to it, but that was also set in the modern world," he says. "And I decided to tell this story about a boy who has cancer and fights back against it, and what that might entail, in terms of what we know about our capability to overcome just about anything."
When Laurie first read the story, she says she knew she wanted to adapt it as a play. "We don't see epic fantasy on our stages, either for adults or young adults and I'm not entirely sure sure why that is, but I'm thrilled that The Coterie is jumping into this exciting world with me.
Laurie Brooks is Resident Playwright at the Coterie.
Producing Artistic Director Jeff Church says it's a relationship that's flourished for more than two decades. "Laurie's plays have always been bold, never shying away from issues," says Church. "We are stretched in a good way, to rise to the challenge of doing fantasy."
Terry Brooks' works have been adapted for television, like the recent MTV show, The Shannara Chronicles, which moved to Spike TV. But, he says, it's something special to have his sister, an acclaimed playwright, shape his work for the stage — for the first time. "And that's what I saw (on opening night), taking a short story of words on paper and representing it in a different medium entirely," Brooks says. "I support her in her work, just as she supports me. And she's taught me a lot about collaboration."
NOTE: The title of this play was changed during the rehearsal process in 2018
The Secret of Courage is based on a short story written by my brother, fantasy author Terry Brooks. When I first read his short story I knew I wanted to bring its messages of courage, friendship and magic to young audiences. When Jack discovers he has cancer, he is paralyzed with fear but with the help of a magical world and his best friend, Waddy, Jack finds the strength to take on something larger than himself.
The Coterie and I are looking forward to being among the first to bring a true fantasy world to the stage for young adults, complete with an elf, a troll, a Native ghost, an irascible flying owl and a demon bent on the destruction of the protagonist. We are looking forward to using the latest technology to animate this fantasy world. Our intention is to create an immersive theatre experience where the audience is deep in the fantastical world of Jack’s imagination.
Nothing excites me more in playwriting than the opportunity to create work that uses the innate possibilities the stage alone can offer. The Secret
of Courage includes endless possibilities for the use of theatrical devices and new technologies now available to us. When the magic of theatricality is combined with empathetic, well-drawn characters and an engaging story, there lies a meaningful, memorable experience for all audiences. Yes, Virginia, there is magic in the world.