BH Interview: 'The Giver' Director on Letting Kids Explore Dark Themes

Children are routinely coddled in our society, often for good reason.

You wouldn’t want to drag your eight-year-old along to see the latest “Paranormal Activity” sequel or a Madonna concert.

Theater director Christy Montour-Larson isn’t shying away from the darker elements of “The Giver,” a stage production based on the dystopian young adult novel by Lois Lowry.

The Giver

“One of the reasons why young people love ‘The Giver’ so much is that it doesn’t talk down to them. It talks up to them,” Montour-Larson tells Big Hollywood. “We’re not shying away from the intense moments in the book.”

“It doesn’t censor itself,” she adds of a story that first hit book store shelves in 1993.

The show, playing through Nov. 18 at The Ricketson Theatre in Denver, tackles the challenging story of a society which seems ideal – on the surface. Conflict has been weaned out of the culture, leaving a friction-free world literally stripped of color. 

When young Jonas turns 12 he is chosen by the Elders to be the Receiver of Memories, he starts to understand the true nature of society and what was lost when all conflict was erased from their world.

“On paper, it sounds really great. No war, no hunger, no racism … but what do you give up to have that level of safety?” she asks.

Montour-Larson recalls first discovering the book a decade ago, a time when she was sampling young adult literature like the “Harry Potter” series.

The stage adaptation, which she calls very faithful to the source material, has the challenge of recreating some pivotal visuals from the novel. Audiences will see an apple return to its original hue and watch a roomful of black and white books burst with color.

Montour-Larson has plenty of experience directing adults, but she found her young cast had a special bond to the material.

“Their eyes get a little bigger when they talk about how important the books are to them,” she says.

“The Giver” spawned two literary sequels – “Gathering Blue” and “Messenger.” A fourth book in the series, “Son” hits stores tomorrow.

Montour-Larson says audiences of all ages can take something away from its compelling themes.

“It’s important for grown ups to learn the lessons of growing up,” she says.

(Photo Credit: Vicki Kerr: In the photo: Alastair Hennessy (Jonas) and Philip Pleasants (The Giver) in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s production of "The Giver.")


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