Greg Banks had never read -- never even heard of -- Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time before embarking on directing a stage adaptation for the Children's Theatre Company.
It turns out that's not unusual in the British director's homeland, where almost everyone Banks talked to had not read the book. That's quite different than what he found in the United States. "When I asked people over here, lots and lots of people had read it," he says.
Over the months he has worked on John Glore's stage version, Banks has found an increased understanding for L'Engle's planet-hopping adventure. "I was able to make huge connections, as it talks about the real world, like all good science fiction should do."
This marks Banks's seventh directing effort for CTC. Past productions have included Antigone, Romeo and Juliet (which earned him an Ivey Award in 2009), his own adaptation of Huck Finn, and last year's Robin Hood. Known for his innovative approach (both Antigone and Romeo and Juliet, for example, were presented in an immersive, promenade style), Banks also works to get the best performances out of the often small casts.
This time, Banks has six actors to take on the various roles in the story. "What's good about a small cast is that it creates more energy for the actors. They are engaged and busy a large amount of the time, and they are always working hard," he says.
In A Wrinkle in Time, Meg Murry, her brother, and a classmate are able to access other points in the universe via a tesseract (in geometry, that's a three-dimensional representation of a four-dimensional cube). They set off to find the Murry's absent father, with their journey spanning several different worlds.
That, of course, offers plenty of challenges for a stage-bound production that doesn't have millions to transform at every turn in the plot. "What we can do is tell the emotional story well, and create our own world. We've done that with fairly low-tech stuff," Banks says.
While he didn't want to reveal any specifics before opening night, Banks did say that this is achieved through a mix of sound, lighting, and stage design. Set designer Joseph Stanley used the artwork of Louise Nevelson as inspiration, producing textured pieces that will be painted almost entirely black.
Though the book was written 50 years ago, "it translates well to now," Banks says, noting that the tale will resonate with both young audiences and adults. "The story touches on a lot of things, including the point in their lives where your children realize you are not a god and you have failings."
A Wrinkle in Time opens Friday and runs through December 4 at the Children's Theatre Company.