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PHOTOS: Corduroy at the Children’s Theatre Company

The cover image for the classic children’s book Corduroy by Don Freeman. Freeman both wrote and illustrated this classic series, which has now been adapted for the stage.

The Children’s Theatre Company’s production of Corduroy, a stage adaptation of the classic children’s novel by Don Freeman, opens today. Freeman (1908-1978), a professional illustrator who contributed to numerous New York City-based magazines, began writing and illustrating children’s books in his mid-30s, after the end of World War 2. Corduroy is his most famous and iconic book, starring a stuffed bear wearing corduroy pants. It was first published in 1968; CTC’s stage adaptation by Barry Kornhauser comes on the book’s 50th anniversary.

Corduroy was highly unusual in its time for prominently featuring an African American girl, Lisa. The book was rejected by several publishers, but Freeman was persistent; after an initial rejection, it was finally printed by Viking Press – in fact, also the very first publisher to have rejected Freeman’s book. Since then, the 32-page book has never gone out of print, and it has been listed on several Top 100 Books for Children lists. Freeman penned a sequel, A Pocket for Corduroy, in 1968; a television movie followed in 1984, and two animated television series that ran from 1997-2001. A third book by B. G. Hennessy, Corduroy Lost and Found, was published in 2006.

The stage play Corduroy is based on the original two books by Freeman. It is directed by Peter Brosius, features scenic designs by Torry Bend, costumes by Trevor Bowen, lighting design by Craig Gottschalk, and sound and music by Victor Zupanc. Here’s a look at CTC’s upcoming production:

Mother (Lauren Davis) and Lisa (Ileri Okikiolu) share a pinky swear. Photo by Dan Norman.

Reed Sigmund as the Night Watchman in Corduroy. Photo by Dan Norman.

The Night Watchman scene in the parent book. Illustration by Don Freeman.
Corduroy (Dean Holt)’s quest to replace his missing button takes him into bunny land. Photo by Dan Norman.
Corduroy finds a button. Illustration by Don Freeman.
Corduroy (Dean Holt) goes after some thread. Photo by Dan Norman.
Two store workers (Keegan Robinson and Meredith ‘Mimi’ Kol-Balfour) in Corduroy. Photo by Dan Norman.
Lisa (Ileri Okikiolu) makes her selection. Photo by Dan Norman.
Lisa runs up the stairs with Corduroy in the original book. Illustration by Don Freeman.

Corduroy plays March 6-May 20 at the Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, MN.

Twin Cities Arts Reader