By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Eric H. Weinberger said that middle school was the "most tortured point in my life." The New York-born-and-raised playwright has used those experiences from his life in his new musical, "Wanda's World."
"I wanted (the show) to be powerful with a message," Weinberger said. "It's about being accepted and learning to accept yourself. It's about a girl with a birthmark. We used that as a symbol. Everyone has a birthmark. Everybody has something they are embarrassed about and gives them some kind of shame. We want to deal with that."
Weinberger said the musical has a strong anti-bullying message.
"It's about accepting differences," he said. "That doesn't mean you're bad or inferior. It just means your different."
Weinberger is bringing his latest work to the Quincy Community Theater. A cast filled with children from the area will present "Wanda's World" Jan. 31-Feb. 3. The Quincy production will be the first of four regional productions of the musical this year. Originally scripted to have adults play the roles, the musical is being worked so that kids can play the parts. Weinberger saw a production in Austin, Texas, where kids were used to play the parts.
"It was a great experience to see the kids do it," Weinberger said. "I hope it will be just fun for the kids in Quincy."
The story centers around Wanda Butternut. In her fantasy life, Wanda is beautiful, confident and always knows what to say. In reality, she has a big birthmark on her face and is terrified to start school in a new town. Thanks to the help of two teachers, Wanda overcomes the odds to feel comfortable in her new surroundings.
Weinberger and the musical's composer, Beth Falcone, will fly in to watch the performances. They will hold a special workshop for the children in the production on Saturday and will offer talk-back sessions for audience members after each performance.
This is the second musical written by Weinberger that the Quincy Community Theater has hosted in recent months. Elaine Bromka came to Quincy in November to put on Weinberger's one-woman show, "Tea For Three." Weinberger is a long-time friend of Lenny Bart, who is the QCT's managing director.
Tickets for the shows are available at the Quincy Community Theatre box office inside the Oakley-Lindsay Center. They're $12 each. Shows will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 31, Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, and at 2 p.m. on Feb. 3.
Members of the cast will sell "Wanda's World" bracelets featured in the show with all proceeds going to the Sammy Fund. Each bracelet features the slogan "Not everyone eats cheese," a saying that is used throughout the show. Bracelets will cost $1 each.