Tales of Turtles and Trouble

Kat Zukaitis
 | May 12, 2017

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is about a boy named Peter Hatcher: a nine-year-old who feels like a big fat zero. Living in the same house with his super-annoying baby brother, Farley Drexel—known as Fudge—makes Peter crazy. Fudge screams, kicks, bangs, pesters and messes stuff up all the time. Whether he’s refusing to eat, jumping off of jungle gyms or throwing a tantrum at their father’s office, Fudge is never far from getting himself—and Peter—in big, big trouble.

TurtleThe only thing that makes Peter feel special is his turtle, Dribble, which he won at his friend Jimmy’s birthday party. Peter takes excellent care of Dribble, and gives Fudge strict instructions to stay away. But it’s hard to get a curious two-and-a-half year old to cooperate. Somehow, this pint-sized terror manages to get away with murder while remaining the apple of every grown-up’s eye.

Even worse, Peter’s parents seem to think that managing Fudge is his job. When Fudge won’t eat, who has to stand on his head on the kitchen floor until his brother takes a bite? When Mom needs extra help managing Fudge’s friends, who has to stay home on a Saturday to deal with a truly terrible group of toddlers? When Fudge accidentally knocks out his own front teeth, who gets blamed? Peter, that’s who. Compliant, conscientious, overlooked Peter. Peter, the fourth grade nothing.

Then one day, Peter comes home to make a terrible discovery—and what happens next makes him reevaluate everything he believes about his family and his place in it. Maybe he’s not a fourth grade nothing after all.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing is based on Judy Blume’s iconic children’s book published in 1972. It was the first in a series of “Fudge” books, which also includes Superfudge (1980), Fudge-a-Mania (1990), and Double Fudge (2002). Blume’s popularity endures today, in part because of her great gift for taking childhood seriously. Blume was never afraid to tackle serious or difficult material, writing frankly about topics like death, divorce and adolescent angst long before these subjects were common in young adult literature; at the same time, her work is full of charm, humor and such obvious affection for her characters that they remain easy books to love.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing was adapted to the stage by Bruce Mason in a script commissioned by Seattle Children’s Theatre, the only adaptation authorized by Blume herself. The resulting play is true to both the letter and spirit of Blume’s work. In Mason’s dramatization, Peter serves as the narrator, letting us share his worries, triumphs and woes over the course of one tumultuous year. Six actors play a variety of characters: Peter’s parents and friends, a group of unruly toddlers, a doctor, a nurse, a dentist, some very important business executives and many more.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing Cast

THE CAST: Michael Faulkner, Brad Culver, Fran de Leon, Matthew Grondin, Celeste Den and Joshua Wolf Coleman.

Director Robin Larsen, a big fan of Judy Blume herself, is in charge of bringing this delightfully relatable story to life. She leads the talented team of actors and designers who are helping to tell Peter’s tale. In addition to Larsen, the creative team includes Sara Ryung Clement (set design), ​Kathryn Poppen (costume design), Karyn Lawrence (lighting design), Jeff Polunas (sound design), Richard Soto (stunts) and Kathryn Davies (stage management). SCR veterans Joshua Wolf Coleman, Brad Culver, Celeste Den, Michael Faulkner, Matthew Grondin and Fran de Leon make up the crackerjack cast.

In Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Peter Hatcher grapples with frustration, jealousy and loneliness, but he comes to understand that those emotions do not cancel out love and acceptance. In fact, they’re all part of the package of being a person—and maybe learning to see the good in your unruly disaster of a younger sibling is just part of growing up. Tune in for laughter, tears and turtles in Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, May 19 – June 4 on the Julianne Argyros Stage.

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