Presented by The Umbrella Stage Company
Based on the novel by Natalie Babbitt
Book by Claudia Shear & Tim Federle
Music by Chris Miller
Lyrics by Nathan Tysen
Directed by Nancy Curran Willis
Music direction by Matthew Stern
Choreography by Lara Finn Banister
Response by Kitty Drexel
(Concord, MA) I have wrestled with my response to the Umbrella Stage Company’s production of Tuck Everlasting. Writing this essay has been difficult. I do not publish these words lightly. It hurts my heart to do so. But, out of love for those who may be negatively impacted by this musical, I must. It is more important to protect children than it is to be polite.
Interpretations of art change over time. The innocuous children’s literature of a previous generation can serve as a clear warning signal to this one. Times have changed. Tuck Everlasting is no longer just a story about living life to its fullest. It is now also a story about predatory grooming and the community that would have excused the predatory behavior as normal.
Tuck Everlasting the musical is about the predatory grooming of a minor. In it, Jesse Tuck, a 102-year-old adult (sexual) predator who looks 17-years-old, meets pre-pubescent, 11-year-old girl Winnie Foster in the wilds of an NH forest. He begins grooming her for marriage while she is removed from parental oversight.
Winnie gets away from Jesse by chance because of an altercation with a gun. She is not saved by parental or community interference. She is not saved by her clever mind or spunky attitude. She is saved by chance.
Out of respect to the hardworking cast and crew of Everlasting Tuck, I cannot delve into the performative details of this musical. I am finding it impossible to separate their work from the context of the production.In any other context, I would happily sing their praises. I apologize for this.
Everlasting Tuck could start a conversation about how predators groom children as well as communities. Unfortunately, the conversations I overheard at the theatre on Saturday afternoon told me that the audience instead took a hard left at discussing this necessary topic. It is not more important to congratulate hardworking friends than it is to point out social evils.
I understand why no one was saying anything; no one wants to be the bad guy by pointing out the obvious dangers in the room. I don’t mind incurring blame if it means children are protected from sexual predators like the White Rhino Report’s Al Chase and Boston Children’s Theatre’s Burgess Clark. Communities enable predatory grooming by ignoring the signs and making excuses instead.
A lot of grooming looks normal from the outside. It is up to a community to notice the signs of predatory behavior and put a stop to them. I’ve listed resources to help identify it below.
Community politics are not more important than protecting children. I did not speak up when I was a little girl involved in a poisonous theatre production. I am speaking up now.
- “The truth is, grooming signs can be difficult to spot. This is because sexual predators tend to also befriend parents and caregivers.” https://www.bark.us/blog/grooming-signs-sexual-predators/
- “Warning Signs of Possible Sexual Abuse In A Child’s Behaviors” https://www.stopitnow.org/ohc-content/tip-sheet-7
- Behaviors of sexual grooming https://mcasa.org/assets/files/Behaviors-of-Sexual-Predators-Grooming1.pdf
- Four Strategies for Protecting Kids from Sexual Predators https://www.kidpower.org/library/article/protecting-kids-from-sexual-predators/