A Garden Theater with John Yurchyk
Rounding a bend in the road, the Racoon and the Squirrel came in sight of a curious, dignified old house of mottled white stucco, with well-kept lawns reaching down to the forest’s edge. ‘There’s Ragdale Hall,’ said the Racoon; ‘and that path on the left, where the noticeboard says, “Quiet, artists working below,” leads to the Great Barnhouse, where they’ll leave their pinecones and stamp their paws in the welcome journal. ‘The Friends Studio is over there to the right. That’s the Meadow Studio you’re looking at now- very old, that is. Shaw was rather stylish, you know, and this is really one of the nicest houses in these parts.’ They glided down the path, and the Squirrel fumbled their acorns as they passed into the shadow of a large stand of trees. Here they saw many curious trees and shrubs, passing along this funny forest edge, low hanging branches peel away and they can just catch a glimpse into the woods. Raggedy apple trees dance round the cedars within, dozens of forest creatures wobbling around, “I think they’re having a FOPA!” says the squirrel. “FOPA?” replied the Racoon. “Why yes it has to be a FOPA, a proper forest party where all the creatures of the woods can dance freely without cower.” The Racoon looked around. ‘I understand, I’ve never been to a FOPA before, but Owl was hooting all night about the Ragdale forest parties, come along and let’s look them up. We shall hear all about it quite soon enough.’ They disembarked, and strolled along the chirpy tree-decked screen in search of Owl, whom they happened upon straight-away, resting on a low limestone wall-bench, with a preoccupied expression of face, and dozens of forest critter crowns spread out on the seat below its perch. ‘Hooray!’ Owl cried, fluttering upon seeing them, ‘this is splendid!’ Owl shook the paws of both of them warmly, never waiting for an introduction to the Squirrel. ‘How kind of you!’ Owl went on, dancing round them. ‘I was just going to send a Chipmunk down the path for you, Racoon, with strict orders that you were to be fetched up here at once, whatever you were doing. I didn’t want you to miss the FOPA. The Squirrel and Racoon looked intrigued. ‘Come inside and have a crown! Would you prefer a fox to a snake, Racoon? What say you, Squirrel? We’ve got bunnies and deer, any forest creature you fancy! You don’t know how lucky it is, your turning up just now!’ ‘Let’s sit quiet a bit, Owly!’ said the Racoon, throwing itself into the other limestone bench at the entrance, while the Squirrel took another by the side and made some civil remark about Owl’s ‘delightful residence.’ ‘Finest forest in all of Lake Forest,’ cried the Owl boisterously. ‘Or anywhere else, for that matter,’ it could not help adding.
Adapted from Wind in the Willows
Design Team: Owen Nichols, John Yurchyk, Mark Acciari