Focus on Community/Arts
Omaha Theater Company's "Old Yeller" Will Warm Hearts At TPAC

Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

WYE MILLS - The story of Travis and his dog Old Yeller has touched the lives of children and adults for more than 50 years and has come to be known as a literary treasure. Written by Fred Gipson in 1956, the book Old Yeller has been adapted for the stage by the Omaha Theater Company and will be presented on Monday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Todd Performing Arts Center at Chesapeake College. Designed for an audience age 6 to adult, this frontier classic will inspire audiences and emphasize the themes of responsibility and adulthood while incorporating a life-like puppet as the title character.

"Old Yeller" is the story of 14-year-old Travis who is left with his mother and younger brother in the late 1860´s to care for the family ranch in Texas. Old Yeller, a mangy, one-eared mutt shows up, and Travis wants nothing to do with him until the dog helps save his family, earning Travis´ love and respect. The bond that results from their many adventures changes Travis´ life forever, especially when Old Yeller gets sick and Travis must face the most difficult decision of his young life.

"While this play obviously deals with serious issues, they are issues that all children deal with in their lives," said Omaha Theater Company Playwright Brian Guehring. "In this adaptation, I have focused on Travis´s journey into adulthood. As a 14-year-old, he really wants to be treated like a man; however, this summer teaches him about the responsibilities and relationships and duties of grown-up life. There is a big gap between what he assumes it means to be a man and what it really means."

The Omaha Theater Company serves more than 250,000 people each year and is recognized as one of the nation´s leading touring companies for children´s theater. Actor Michael Harrelson as "Travis" will lead a professional cast of five: Ali Delianide as "Mama," Katie Grant as "Old Yeller" and "Lisabeth," Chris Sheard as "Arliss," and Andrew Waffenschmidt as "Papa" and the other male characters. In addition to their primary roles, all of the members of the supporting cast will operate puppets as they are presented in the storyline. "The feeling of love that starts with a connection to an animal and spreads throughout a family and eventually a community is what we have strived to convey with this production of Old Yeller," says Kevin Ehrhart, director of the play. "Now, more than ever, we need to reconnect with the simple goodness in us that is fueled by caring for all living things."

Tickets are $10 for children and $12 for adults. For tickets or additional information, please contact the TPAC box office at 410-827-5867.

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