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Tin Roof Theatre brings infinite wisdom to stage in ‘Tuck Everlasting’

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Max Devick, left, and Jacob Kalvoda play the Tuck brothers Jesse and Miles in “Tuck Everlasting.”
Contributed / Tin Roof Theatre
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It seems like an eternity since I explored the idea of living forever way back in fifth grade while reading the children’s classic, “ Tuck Everlasting ,” by Natalie Babbitt.

The story follows Winnie Foster, an adventurous girl who befriends the Tuck family, only to discover they’re hiding a huge secret: they drank from a water spring—and now they’re immortal.

Like many 9-year-olds, I thought being immortal would be super cool. To live forever and witness the years, decades, centuries go by and never get any older? What could be better?

Turns out, death might be a better fate in the long run. If you live forever, you also have to watch people you love die. If you keep going on and on, life ends up being full of endless grief, not perpetual joy. (As Angus Tuck says in the book, “You can’t have living without dying.”)

Maybe living forever wouldn’t be so great after all.

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The Tuck family, from left, Angus (Mark Seeba), Mae (Myra Nowak), Jesse (Max Devick) and Miles (Jacob Kalvoda).
Contributed Photo / Tin Roof Theatre

Tin Roof Theatre Company welcomes audiences to question their own perspectives on immortality during its stage adaptation of “Tuck Everlasting,” written by Babbitt’s son-in-law, Mark Frattaroli, and directed by Tin Roof company member and longtime Fargo teacher Mark Seeba.

Tin Roof brings “Tuck Everlasting” to Moorhead’s Hjemkomst Center on Nov. 4, 5 and 6, and again on Nov. 10, 11 and 12. Times and tickets are at www.tinrooftheatre.org .

Playing on emotions

I told Seeba that I first read “Tuck Everlasting” in Mr. Foley’s class at Lewis and Clark Elementary back in 1987.

“Of course! I student taught with Mr. Dronen. I stole a lot of his tricks,” Seeba said.

Aside from reaffirming the fact that living in Fargo means you’re always going to know somebody who knows somebody who’s probably your cousin, Seeba recognizes “Tuck Everlasting” as an opportunity to teach students about making important decisions.

“Natalie Babbitt definitely wanted people to think immortality is not everything that it’s cracked up to be, but we want people to make up their own minds and get that message across. And we want people to be entertained,” Seeba said.

Starring Craig Roath as The Man in the Yellow Suit, Seeba as Angus Tuck, Myra Nowak as Mae Tuck, and Max Devick and Jacob Kalvoda as the Tuck brothers Jesse and Miles, “Tuck Everlasting” also addresses themes of nature, family ties, love and loyalty.

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Angus Tuck, played by Mark Seeba, explains to Winnie, played by Katie Brown, that "You can't have living without dying" during an October rehearsal session at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Fargo.
Contributed photo / Tin Roof Theatre

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Girl power

In her debut stage performance, 6th-grader Katie Brown plays Winnie Foster, a strong female protagonist akin to Hermione Granger of "Harry Potter," Seeba said, who often reads “Tuck Everlasting” in his classes.

“Some of those great stories are so male dominated,” Seeba said. “This one is female and she really reflects strength.”

Brown started her acting career attending programs at Trollwood Performing Arts School in Moorhead. “Tuck Everlasting” is her first full-length performance, as well as her first leading role.

“It’s been an amazing opportunity because it’s the first time I’ve done a play other than Trollwood,” Brown said. “Doing this has been really fun and challenging.”

Playing by the book

I asked Brown if, in her opinion, the screenplay accurately reflected the book. Admittedly, she’d read the play but was only part-way through the novel (What would Mr. Foley think?), though she had watched the 2002 Disney movie starring a then-20-year-old Alexis Bledel of “The Handmaid’s Tale” fame.

“It was, like, not accurate,” Brown said, pointing out Bledell’s “advanced age” when “Winnie is supposed to be like 12 or 14.”

Tin Roof Theatre’s treasurer, founding member and oft-cast actor Karla Pederson agrees. She’s been with Tin Roof since its birth in 2005 and appreciates when screenplays maintain accuracy on stage.

“One of Babbitt’s issues with the movie versions and the musical is it didn’t stick with the book,” Pederson said. “Frattaroli made a point to make sure the play sticks with the real story. … The voices that speak as narrators to open and throughout the play to tie things together are pulled directly from the book,” Pederson said.

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The Tin Roof Theatre will perform "Tuck Everlasting" at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 and 5; 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 6; 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 10, 11, 12.
Contributed / Tin Roof Theatre

Playing the bad guy

Of course, no good story is complete without someone you hate.

That’s where Roath comes in. He plays the character called The Man in the Yellow Suit. (As it was not a dress rehearsal, Roath came to our interview as The Man in the Red Sweater.)

A veteran on the stage and well-known for his appearance in many local television commercials, Roath welcomes parts in productions that challenge the idea of good versus bad, right versus wrong.

“I love playing those characters because you can be a little nasty and let it rip a little bit. And this character in particular is just so subtle the way he talks to people. He knows what he wants and he knows how to manipulate other people to get what he wants,” Roath said.

The Man in the Yellow Suit symbolizes many human emotions, and that’s what makes the part such an interesting juxtaposition to what ends up being a celebration of Winnie’s ability to make difficult choices in light of intense temptation.

Deep thoughts

Of course, “Tuck Everlasting” isn’t just for nine-year-old kids wishing they could be immortal. In reminiscing about reading the book for the first time myself many, many years ago, I started thinking all over again about if I could drink from the Tucks’ water spring, would I?

Probably not, but the fact that Babbitt’s story keeps me thinking about everlasting life more than three decades after I read it means the story itself is most certainly a timeless one.

Roath said, “This is a very good story and good for all ages. There’s a lot of different parts in it with some very touching scenes, and you know, a few laughs going on, too. A good variety for that stuff.”

After all, variety is the spice of (mortal) life.

If you go

What: “Tuck Everlasting”

When: 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 and 5; 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 6; 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 10, 11, 12

Where: Hjemkomst

Tickets: $14-$20, available at Eventbrite

Website: tinrooftheatre.org

Tin Roof Theatre: 33 productions and counting

2005: Tin Roof Theatre presented its inaugural production at Main Ave Theatre in downtown Fargo with “Death of a Salesman.”

2008: The guest theatre moved venues to The Stage at Island Park in 2009, starting with “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Present: Tin Roof Theatre now performs at FMCT’s location inside the Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead, with their last performance, “Blithe Spirit,” put on hold in February 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Tuck Everlasting” marks the group’s 33rd production.

In past seasons, Tin Roof has partnered with Special Olympics, ArtSage, ND Association of the Blind, the Rape & Abuse Crisis Center, and the Pride Collective and Community Center by assisting them with silent auctions at designated performances, as well as contributing support. Tin Roof Theatre Company is a nonprofit organization and all donations to our company are tax deductible.

View a list of all productions and find more information online at www.tinrooftheatre.org .

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.

This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit theartspartnership.net.
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