Who doesn’t love that plump bear with an irresistible attraction to honey and condensed milk?
He’s Winnie-the-Pooh, also called Pooh Bear, a fictional anthropomorphic teddy bear created by English author A. A. Milne.
The first collection of stories about the character was in the book “Winnie-the-Pooh” (1926), followed by “The House at Pooh Corner” two years later. Milne also included poems about the bear in two children’s verse books.
Now Winnie the Pooh – the hyphens disappeared in the Disney version and remain generally absent – is coming with his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood to Adventure Theatre MTC.
Shirley Serotsky, a freelance director who staged a production of “The Jungle Book” at the theater a few years back, is at the helm of “Winnie the Pooh.” It was adapted for the stage by le Clanche du Rand.
Generally, all is well in the Hundred Acre Wood with gentle Pooh and friends, but here the humming, hungry bear and Piglet have to find the Heffalump, an elephant-like creature, watch Rabbit scheme to get rid of Kanga’s dreaded bathtub, and help Eeyore search for his tail.
“Theatre for Young People (TYA) was one of my favorite classes in graduate school,” said Serotsky, who received her Master of Fine Arts degree at Catholic University. “It opened up a whole new world for me.”
She hadn’t realized before, Serotsky said, the “depth of research and scholarship, much of it beautiful, in theater for young people.”
Part of the appeal of TYA is the contrast to adult theater, which “is way too cut up for realism,” said Serotsky, the mother of a three-year-old.
“You have to work so hard to achieve what happens in people’s living rooms or kitchens. But children instantly accept and want something supertheatrical. You can say this is this, and they’ll accept it.”
For Derrick Truby, who won the coveted role of Pooh, one of the wonders of the production is that the sense of community among cast and crew reflects The Hundred Acre Wood.
“We celebrate community, and embrace child-like imagination,” he said.
One of the ironies in his being cast as Pooh is that Truby was among those who had the least exposure growing up to what Milne called “a bear with very little brain.”
“I was caught up on cartoons and other things,” Truby admitted. But, he said, Adventure Theatre’s artistic director Michael Bobbitt urged him to believe in himself.
Now as an adult, Truby has “caught up” on Pooh through a script he called “surprisingly funny and witty” and a role “you can sink your teeth into.”
But there are special challenges in TYA.
“It’s easy for actors to portray children as not smart or intellectual,” he said. “In reality, their brains develop rapidly, almost over a few days.”
Then there’s for that extra energy for early-morning children’s shows, Truby laughed.
Truby graduated college in 2017 and entered the world of professional acting at Signature Theatre.
Having seen a number of shows at Adventure Theatre before being cast there, Truby commented, “Its primary goal is not quantity but quality; it’s nothing but honesty and truth.”
Beyond the lovability of Pooh and friends, the importance of TYA goes beyond any one show, Serotsky explained. “We have to compete with electronics and screen time and offer creative, active play,” she said.
Sally Horton plays Kanga and Eeyore; Billie Krishawn is Piglet, Roo and Owl; and Stephen Murry is Christopher Robin and Rabbit.
“Winnie the Pooh” runs March 29-May 26 at the Glen Echo Theatre, 7300 MacArthur Blvd. For tickets, call 301-634-2270.