Her name is Junie B. Jones. (The B stands for Beatrice, but she just likes B and that’s all.) Here are some things she would want you to know about her: She’s in the grade of kindergarten; her room is named Room Nine; and she has two bestest friends, Grace and Lucille. Also, her favorite game to play is horses. (If you don’t already know, horses is when you gallop and trot and snort.) Oh, and also, Junie B. Jones is NOT a crook.
The whole crook business begins with a story called “Once Upon a Time My Grandfather Named Frank Miller Went to the Store and He Bought Me Some Mittens,” by Junie B. Jones. Once upon a time, Junie B.’s grandfather, named Frank Miller, went to the store and bought her some mittens. Junie B.’s new mittens aren’t just any mittens, though. They’re made out of black furry fur and Grandpa Miller bought them for no good reason—it wasn’t even Junie B.’s birthday! That’s how come she loves that guy very much.
At school, Junie B. shows her furry mittens to everyone: Grace, Lucille, Ricardo and even Meanie Jim. But then, during recess, Junie B. takes off her coat and mittens—so as not to die from heat perspiration—and sets them aside. She forgets all about them when she sees Handsome Warren—what a chunk!—the new boy in Room Eight. Lucille wants Handsome Warren to be her boyfriend. But neither Grace nor Junie B. even got a crack at him yet! The three girls try to impress Handsome Warren in various ways. Grace shows him how fast she can run. Lucille shows him her best dance moves. And Junie B. tries out her best joke. A really good one. In fact, it’s so good that it sends Junie B. straight to the ground in a fit of laughter. But Handsome Warren seems less impressed. Before he leaves, he calls Junie B. a nutball.
(A nutball?! Junie B. Jones is NOT a nutball.)
When the bell rings, Junie B. runs off to gather her coat and mittens. And that’s when she notices something terrible—something that’s even more terrible than being called a nutball. Her mittens are gone. 911! Someone stole Junie B.’s black furry mittens!
Despite a very long search, Junie B. can’t find her mittens anywhere. Not even in the Lost and Found. But then, on her way back to class, the heartsick Junie B. finds something wonderful on the floor: a pen that writes in four different colors. Wowie wow wow! She decides to keep the pen for herself. Because finders keepers, losers weepers, right?
But the longer Junie B. is without her mittens, and the longer she keeps the pen that isn’t hers, the more she begins to wonder: Will she ever catch the mitten crook? Is finders keepers really a good rule? Is she actually a nutball? And, worst of all, is Junie B. Jones a crook herself?
For many young audiences, South Coast Repertory’s production of Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook won’t be their first introduction to the energetic kindergartner. The Junie B. Jones and Junie B., First Grader book series, created and written by the late Barbara Park, remain enormously popular, and have sold more than 60 million copies in North America alone. With nearly 30 adventures to choose from, generations of young readers have laughed and learned with Junie B., a girl with an enormous imagination, an irrepressible spirit and, like many children her age, an idiosyncratic vocabulary.
Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook was adapted for the stage by playwright Allison Gregory and combines storylines from two books, Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook and Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren. It is the second Junie B. adaptation by Gregory that SCR has produced. (The first, Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells!, was part of the theatre’s 2011-12 Theatre for Young Audiences season.)
Director Beth Lopes makes her SCR debut with the production. Of Junie B., Lopes says: “She’s a clever, lovable oddball who is firmly in control of her own universe. That’s not to say she isn’t flawed, which is one of the best parts about Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook. The story teaches us that you can be a good person and still make mistakes.” Author Barbara Park also observed that Junie B.’s imperfections are part of what makes her so relatable to children and adults alike. “I’ve never been sure whether Junie B.’s fans love her in spite of her imperfections…or because of them,” Park told publisher Random House. “But either way, she’s gone out into the world and made more friends than I ever dreamed possible.”
To bring Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook to life, Lopes has assembled a top-notch creative team and cast. The design team includes Keith Mitchell (set), Kathryn Poppen (costumes), Karyn D. Lawrence (lighting) and Matt Caspary and Mark Glenn (sound design). Together, they have created a bold and colorful physical world, complemented by a whimsical soundscape. The cast of seven is comprised of Joseph Abrego, Rosemary Brownlow, Paul Culos, Nicole Erb, Gio Munguia and Jasmine St. Clair—all of whom make their SCR debuts in the production—as well as Ann Noble, a veteran of many SCR Theatre for Young Audiences productions.
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