Interview with Corduroy Playwright, Barry Kornhauser

What was the most challenging part of adapting Corduroy for the stage?

Barry Kornhauser

I remember reading Corduroy to my own children often, and it clocked in at about five minutes. So turning it into a full-length piece was the first challenge. I wanted to ensure that any embellishments I made would convey the sweet spirit of the book while honoring author Don Freeman’s intent. My research revealed that Freeman was very interested in the idea of a deserted department store at night. So extending and elaborating on Corduroy’s nighttime search for a button throughout that store seemed the right way to go.

One of my biggest challenges was knowing that Corduroy and the Nighttime Security Guard couldn’t actually meet. The Guard only sees Corduroy as a toy bear, not its living incarnation. That meant I had to basically write scenes for TWO one-person shows—but two shows that interconnected. We need to see both the comic mayhem that Corduroy inadvertently creates in each store department, but also the comic consequences of that mayhem on the poor Nighttime Security Guard!

This beloved book features two other characters—Lisa and her mom. I was interested in what might be going on that same evening with Lisa. Another challenge was creating an original personal journey for Lisa, with its own struggles, one which I wanted to parallel Corduroy’s in some ways, to show us how the two are truly made for one another. 

What do you find most exciting about writing theatre for young people?

Young people are the most important audience—and the best! And kids will surely let us know when they’re engaged. Their honest, unfiltered responses tell us playwrights exactly how we’re doing. Young people are also more likely to be open to (or enthusiastic about) all sorts of dramatic explorations in both form and content which is a gift to the playwright as it allows us to continue to grow artistically.

Which character do you identify the most with?

Corduroy at Children's Theatre Company

There’s something in each of the four characters. For Corduroy it’s probably the sadly mistaken notion we all may have now and again that we’re not good enough, and that we need to find a missing “something” to be worthy of another’s love. Remembering my own childhood, I can identify with Lisa’s desperate want of something that her parent won’t allow (for whatever good reason), and the ways she tries to change Mom’s mind about that. For me it was a pet dog. No amount of debating, cajoling, or pleading made a difference, as allergies and a busy urban neighborhood made a pup unwise. (As an adult with my own kids, we have owned as many as three pooches at a time!) Being a parent, I can certainly identify with Mother’s struggle to do her best raising a spirited child. For the Nighttime Security Guard, I identify with that character’s care and commitment, deep sense of responsibility, strong work ethic, and embrace of that Beckettian notion: “No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better!"

Find more information about bringing Corduroy to your stage here

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