CALGARY – It was during his years in Calgary that playwright Stephen Massicotte wrote his first major works, including his first full-length play, MARY’S WEDDING. It’s fitting that prominent among those formative works is Massicotte’s immensely popular coming-of-age story, THE BOY’S OWN JEDI HANDBOOK. As Massicotte’s work in Calgary saw him come into prominence as an international playwright, so too does the The Kid, the 10 year-old protagonist of the show, see himself grow into adulthood. The Kid is trying to make sense of a new town and a new school, and through his immense love and fandom for the Star Wars movies, he forges new friendships and connections.
Massicotte’s play premiered at the Fringe over 20 years ago, and with a fresh new production by Storybook Theatre running this November, a new generation of audiences will be introduced to THE BOY’S OWN JEDI HANDBOOK. “It’s neat because many of my friends who saw the first round of Jedi Handbook productions in Calgary now have kids and nieces and nephews,” Massicotte says. “And like introducing them to the original trilogy they’re introducing them to the play.”
Storybook Theatre Artistic Director JP Thibodeau is counting on those young parents to bring their kids out to a show they’ll all love. “The fans now have kids, and want to share the story on a different level,” Thibodeau says.
Thibodeau previously worked on a 2016 production of the show, but sees an opportunity for Storybook Theatre to bring a more familial sensibility to the show today. “What’s great about this show is how fun The Kid is,” Thibodeau says. “The absurdity of how he recreates Star Wars…he’s really using household items to help recreate the story, which then makes it even more fun for the audience, because they’re seeing Star Wars in a playful, childlike way.”
Massicotte sees themes in his work that cross generations as well. “Unlike some plays for children that only work for the younger audience, THE BOY’S OWN JEDI HANDBOOK works for older audiences.” Massicotte says. “There is a bit of a bitter sweet tone to the play. It’s a longing for some of the best aspects of childhood. I think adults really get that, and kids, I think, always like to be invited into the deeper themes. I always appreciated that when I was a kid, not being treated as a little kiddie. That was one of the things that I really liked about Star Wars. There was real peril, loss, pain, adversity.”
Thibodeau sees the resonating nostalgia of the original movies as the core driving force behind they play’s consistent popularity. “I think nostalgia is huge,” Thibodeau says. “JEDI opens up to a whole other demographic of theatre goers…It’s something they can relate to, because of the nostalgia.”
While Disney leans into the nostalgia bug with films like the new Star Wars trilogy and has at least four more films planned, Massicotte doesn’t know for certain if THE BOY’S OWN JEDI HANDBOOK will have 20 more years of popularity among theatre goers. “Who knows?” Massicotte says. “Because the play isn’t only about Star Wars, it’s about context, the time and place when Star Wars started, what it was like the first time around when we’d never seen anything like it. Coming of age stories have a timelessness about them.”
Storybook Theatre presents THE BOY’S OWN JEDI HANDBOOK November 9-24 at Vertigo Theatre and is recommended for ages 10+. For tickets and more information visit storybooktheatre.orgMary's Wedding, Storybook Theatre, THE BOY'S OWN JEDI HANDBOOK, Vertigo Theatre