HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) – as part of the Hope Summer Repertory TheaterHope College will debut with a new musical inspired in part by illustrations by Dutch artist Joel Schoon-Tanis.
The book, titled “Lulu and the Long Walk,” was a collaborative effort between Schoon-Tanis and writer Dan Haseltine.
“I’ve illustrated a lot of books about my career. I was really excited about that, “Schoon-Tanis said, adding that Haseltine is a friend.” Some people may know him (him) as the lead singer of the band Jars of Clay, but (he) also worked a lot with a group called Blood: mission on the waterbringing water to Africa.
Schoon-Tanis also spent time in Africa, so when Haseltine asked him to create the book, he said it was all inside.
“The central idea is serious, that many children around the world do not have access to clean water. And often it is the girls who have to fetch water, which also prevents them from being able to go to school, ”Schoon-Tanis explained.
Last winter, HSRT asked the couple to turn their book into a musical.
“We were thrilled immediately and for a second Dan and I thought ‘Yeah, let’s write a musical’, and then we talked about this amazing playwright, Ayesu Lartey who not only has a pedigree but also a cultural background. And he was just so much better equipped to do this that we said ‘Yeah, do this instead,’ “said Schoon-Tanis.
Production is part of The new GENext program by HSRT who will commission, work or produce a work each season from black, indigenous and black artists.
“It’s important to hear those stories and it’s important to be part of something that encompasses the human experience,” said Marcus Johnson, HSRT’s associate art director.
New York-based writer and composer, Lartey worked hard to create a show that did just that.
“I’ve been asked to write a 70-minute musical and it takes about seven minutes to read the book,” joked Lartey.
He used “Lulu and the Long Walk” as a tip on a variety of issues including environmental, social and financial.
“(The book is) just meant to say ‘Hey, I want to ask these questions after reading this book.’ Do you know, for example, why Lulu has to go get water? Why do animals help her? Why does she have to go so far? And then you would talk to your parents about it. My goal was that you don’t have to talk about anything with your mom after seeing this, ”Lartey explained.
Although the story is set in Africa, Lartey said it is about real human experiences that people can relate to because they are happening all over the world, even here in the United States.
“There are people living in every single state without access to water, without access to education, without health care,” Lartey said.
He added that it was an incredible experience to watch the show come to life and witness the hard work of everyone involved.
“These people are dedicated. Are busy. We are walking in perfect harmony with a single vision, ”Lartey said.
“Lulu and the Long Walk” will premiere as HSRT celebrates its 50th anniversary.
“This is a big deal for us and I think it’s also what makes Lulu so special. I can’t think of a better theater for the young audience project to stage for Lulu’s 50th anniversary, ”Johnson said.
The show will run from June 23 to August 4 at Hope’s DeWitt Studio Theater. You can buy tickets here.