Adapting Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book for the stage was a unique challenge. Although most people are familiar with the characters of Mowgli, Shere Khan, and Baloo, very few know the original story or have more than a vague recollection of the Disney-version songs. Our goal was to create a coherent narrative that kept the original Kipling poetry and dialogue as possible. This was difficult, given that the source material is a series of disjointed short stories with no particular chronological order. Still, we think we captured the spirit and essence of the story, including the often excluded character of the she-wolf, while keeping the formal sound of the original literature. Also captured is the anti-Peter Pan moral, which is that we must all grow up, leave the jungle of our childhood, and take our place as adults with the “Man-Pack.” It is a tough, but ultimately truthful, coming of age tale that metaphorically captures the painful time when we realize childhood is over before we are ready for it to go.
The process of creating this work was one of tremendous discovery. Each of us read The Jungle Books in their entirety and then met in weekly 3-hour blocks to discuss character and create an action outline. Then, we divided the work and went off to write. The next week we shared our scenes, discussed revisions, and built the next “layer” of action. Early on, the part of the narrator was included to keep the feel of a storybook, where each scene becomes a “turn of the page.” Each of us admits to entering the project with both trepidation and anticipation. However, the process turned out to be creative, affirming, and superbly collegial. Our long-standing personal friendships and artistic bonds are more solid than ever and we miss that writing time already. It was, in the simplest and truest sense, “real fun.” We hope the outcome of our work is as enjoyable for you as the process of creating it has been for us.
Linden Little, Cynthia Allan, and Megan Westhoff
Mowgli, Bagheera, and Baloo
The Jungle Book
(Oct. 28-30, 2010)
The Jungle Book Program (pdf)
Theatre brings Jungle Book to life
The Jungle Book - Homepage News Story
Welcome to the jungle: Kipling’s classic brought to life - The Morning Sun
Three For The Show - Patrick's People - The Morning Sun
All photos courtesy of Natalia Rex