In “For Lucy,” an Imaginative, Fearless Third Grader Learns How to Cope After Her Mother Passes Away

ArtsCenter Stage will present "For Lucy," a nontraditional children's play by David Rabinowitz, on April 27-29 and May 4-6 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro
ArtsCenter Stage will present "For Lucy," a nontraditional children's play by David Rabinowitz, on April 27-29 and May 4-6 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro
ArtsCenter Stage will present "For Lucy," a nontraditional children's play by David Rabinowitz, on April 27-29 and May 4-6 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro
ArtsCenter Stage will present "For Lucy," a nontraditional children's play by David Rabinowitz, on April 27-29 and May 4-6 at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro

ArtsCenter Stage will present For Lucy, a nontraditional children’s play written by Chapel Hill, NC dramatist and independent filmmaker David Rabinowitz and directed by Jeri Lynn Schulke, on April 27-29 and May 4-6 in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater in The ArtsCenter in Carrboro.

According to The ArtsCenter:

“[In] For Lucy[,] … imagination and fearlessness lead a young girl [named Lucy] through sorrow and toward peace. Monsters learn how to waltz and angels shed their wings.

For Lucy is about the importance of family in all shapes and sizes, and the power of imagination to provide answers when the world we live in stops making sense.

“At its core, For Lucy is about the power of kindness in our relationships[, h]ow kindness affects the way people work through grief, and how important it is to value the people in our lives (even if, in Lucy’s case, they’re a moss-covered monster.)”

“David Rabinowitz, the playwright of For Lucy, shared scenes from the play with me in October of 2010,” remembers ArtsCenter Stage artistic director Jeri Lynn Schulke. “I loved the few scenes he sent, and asked for him to share more with me. At that point, he told me he was working on a full-length play; and we started talking about a production here at The ArtsCenter.

“At the time,” says Schulke, “David was a local playwright (he’s originally from Chapel Hill and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) He started at M.I.T. this past fall in a graduate program that combines film and business. This is the first time this play will be produced.”

Schulke adds, “I love how the play explores the journey that Lucy goes through. The passing of her mother is a difficult situation, and she is presented with a lot of challenges as a result. She’s not sleeping, her dad is fairly lost, she’s angry and sad, and the adults in her world are doing the best they can to help her through it.

“In the meantime,” Schulke says, “this imaginary world opens up for her; and she is asked to help the people in that world. By helping them, she helps herself and comes to peace.

“The messages in the play about family (in all its shapes and sizes) and about finding strength through helping one another are powerful yet simple and universal,” claims Schulke. “And they are important messages for kids dealing with any difficulty as well as adults.”

ArtsCenter Stage director Jeri Lynn Schulke is directing the first production of "For Lucy" by David Rabinowitz
ArtsCenter Stage director Jeri Lynn Schulke is directing the first production of "For Lucy" by David Rabinowitz

For Lucy director Jeri Lynn Schulke says, “The play opens with a eulogy given by Pastor Lawrence (John Honeycutt) for Lucy’s mother, Sandra (Amanda Scherle), who has just passed away. Lucy (Marleigh Purgar-MacDonald) and her dad, Robert (Michael Brocki), have been joined by Sandra’s mother and Lucy’s grandmother, Jinny (Jane Underhill), to help Robert transition to being a single dad.

“Lucy is experiencing grief,” Schulke explains, “and doesn’t know how to express it. She’s not sleeping well; and she and her best friend, Theo (Kedric Sherle), are confronted by some school bullies Scott, Jack, and Jordan (Gabe Garrity, Dante Bernis, and Jordan Garrity).”

“While Lucy’s fears and confusion begin to mount, they are expressed in the form of a giant dragon that begins to haunt her. Is the dragon real, or is it just in her imagination? No one else is confronted by the dragon, and Lucy is on her own in attempting to face off with it.”

Jeri Lynn Schulke says, “Help soon arrives in the form of a Moss Monster named Quark (Michael Brocki), who needs Lucy’s help (he’s learning to waltz and needs a partner). Quark is joined in this other world called Someplace Else by Sal (Thom Gradisher), who needs Lucy’s help with the light beams who are sick.

“Sal, a former pizzeria owner-turned-doctor, and Quark are old friends and also joined in Someplace Else by Will (Erich Reinhard) and Olivia (Michele Okoh-Bernis), two moment angels, who need Lucy’s help in finding the perfect moment,” Schulke says. “If they are able to find the perfect moment, they will be free to experience their own moments. The people in Someplace Else all need Lucy’s help in order to move on and have their world safe.”

She adds, “Lucy travels between the real world and Someplace Else in an attempt to help Quark, Sal, Will, and Olivia. She visits with the Pastor, has talks with her dad, grandma, and Theo, and searches for answers. A final encounter with the dragon and an unexpected visitor lead Lucy from confusion to peace and acceptance.”

Schulke says. “The play jumps back and forth quickly between the two worlds, and the scenes are relatively short. The production team agreed that we wanted to be able to do this seamlessly, without blackouts and scene changes. We hit upon the idea of using Shel Silverstein’s drawings as a jumping off point, and the set is inspired by the drawing on the front cover of Where the Sidewalk Ends. The structure that was created incorporates all the playing areas into one unit, with platforms and steps. Lighting helps to differentiate the playing areas and between the real world and Someplace Else.

“We also agreed that this story is being told from Lucy’s point of view, and that the props and costumes would be simple and childlike,” Schulke says.

In addition to director Jeri Lynn Schulke, the creative team for the ArtsCenter Stage production of For Lucy includes technical director and set designer Rob Hamilton, lighting designer Lawruh Lindsey, costume designer Judith Chang, properties manager B Holroyd, sound designer Jil Christensen, and stage manager Melissa Craib. The show also features original music by Kit Wienert.

Director Jeri Lynn Schulke says, “The set is inspired by Shel Silverstein drawings, and is one structure of platforms and steps. There is a ‘cyc,’ or cyclorama, behind the structure upon which shadows and lighting effects are thrown.”

She adds, “The lighting in the real world is rather sparse and stark, while the lighting used in Someplace Else is full of color, movement, and imaginative uses of real-world lamps for the light beams, which are in the hospital being sick (and in need of cure…)

Schulke says, “The costumes for characters in the real world are very simple and straight forward. For example, Lucy’s dad, Robert, is an engineer and is dressed like a dad in khakis, short-sleeve shirt, and tie. The characters in Someplace Else retain a bit of reality to them while having an element that is oversized or otherworldly. For example, Sal, the pizzeria owner-turned-doctor, is in a chef’s coat with a large chef’s hat.”

Jeri Lynn Schulke adds, “For Lucy is about a third grader, Lucy, and is appropriate for families with kids ages 7 or 8 and up. The show runs one hour, and there is a 10-minute intermission. It is rated G [for general audiences].”

ArtsCenter Stage presents FOR LUCY at 7 p.m. April 27 and 28, 3 p.m. April 29, 7 p.m. May 4 and 5, and 3 p.m. May 6 in the Earl and Rhoda Wynn Theater at The ArtsCenter, 300-G E. Main St., Carrboro, North Carolina 27510.

TICKETS: $14-16 ($10-$12 students and seniors 62+, and $12 ArtsClub Members.

BOX OFFICE: 919-929-2787, ext. 201, or

SHOW: and





David Rabinowitz: (official website).

Jeri Lynn Schulke: (Capital Artists Inc. of North Carolina).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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By Robert W. McDowell

Robert W. McDowell is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer, editor, and critic. He has written theater, film, book, and music previews and reviews for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, and Classical Voice of North Carolina, all based in Raleigh. In 1980-91, he covered business, industry, government, and education for (We the People of) North Carolina magazine, published monthly by N.C. Citizens for Business and Industry. In April 2001, McDowell started Robert's Reviews, a FREE weekly e-mail newsletter that provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the performing arts in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Carrboro. Triangle Review is the latest-and-greatest version of McDowell's original newsletter. (To start your FREE subscription, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) From December 1980 until September 2017, McDowell served on the board of directors of The Cinema, Inc., a Raleigh-based nonprofit film society formed in 1966. He currently publishes a weekly list of FREE advance screenings of movies in the Triangle area. (To have your e-mail address added to this FREE list, e-mail robertm748[at] and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.) McDowell also co-edited and supervised the production of Jim Valvano's Guide to Great Eating (JTV Enterprises, 1984), a 224-page sports celebrity cookbook; and he served as a fact checker for Valvano: They Gave Me a Lifetime Contract, and Then They Declared Me Dead (Pocket Books, 1991).