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A slave to theater

Addy finds her way home

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It has been an interesting week in the theater world of Steve Dunkelberger. A family outing to see “Addy: An American Girl Story” on Saturday ended with the missus being taken to Harborview Medical Center courtesy of the Seattle Fire Department after falling down some stairs at Seattle Children’s Theatre. She broke her tibia and fibula clear through and went into surgery to have the bones nailed back together. Good times. She was holding our son at the time and opted to roll instead of land on him, so he is fine.

Was it wrong of me to stay at the theater to see how the play ended before following the ambulance to the hospital? Oh well, I did so there is nothing I can do to change that, but I wanted you to know about the show. I’m writing this while the missus is in surgery and the baby is sleeping. I’ll be heading to the hospital later this afternoon.

Anyway, in the spirit of the ever-optimistic theater critic who asked “Besides the shot to your husband’s head, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?” I will tell you about the show.

“Addy: An American Girl Story” might seem like a cheesy premise for a play. Written by Cheryl L. West, who took the idea from the “Addy” books by Connie Porter, the play follows the story of Addy Walker. She is a slave in 1864 who escapes to freedom with her mother after her father and brother are sold to other owners and taken from their North Carolina plantation. Her baby sister must stay behind at the plantation because she is too small to walk and her crying would alert the slave hunters sent to capture them.

For those not in the know, American Girl makes dolls that are set in pivotal times in American history. There are dolls from colonial times, Revolutionary times, the Great Depression and so on. Each has a name and a novel behind her life that talks about the times in which she was a child. Addy is the doll who covers the Civil War.

When they finally arrive in Philadelphia, Momma finds work in a dress shop while Addy gets to attend school for the first time.  Building a new life in freedom isn’t easy, and Addy desperately misses Poppa, Sam, and Esther. Addy and Momma hold fast to their dream of having their whole family together again. That day comes after the Civil War ends and Poppa is liberated by Union soldiers and Addy learns that her brother made his way to the Union Army, where he fought for his own freedom and made his way to Philadelphia. The family is made whole by the time the curtain falls in this story of struggle, family and determination.

Theatergoers without children will like this show because it’s not as kiddy as they would think, and families with children old enough to understand the story will find that the play prompts discussions about treating people with respect and the role of the family. The show spares nothing in creating the scene of cruelty and racism found on Southern plantations as well as the bigotry Addy experienced in “freedom.” The scenes aren’t too tough for children old enough to understand the concept of slavery, but they aren’t sugarcoated either so a discussion about the times before the show might be in order.

It’s a show worth seeing; just watch your step on the death trap stairs in the quiet room.

“Addy: An American Girl Story” runs at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and at 7 p.m. Friday through June 10 at the Charlotte Martin Theater, 201 Thomas St., Seattle; $16-$32; 206.441.3322,

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