Some of James Thurber's writings need interpretation for today's teen-agers. Other pieces are still quite understandable and quite funny.
That's what a group of Lawrence youths discovered during rehearsals of "Thurber Carnival,'' the second offering in the Lawrence Arts Center's Summer Youth Theatre.
"I'm 32, and even I didn't get all of the references,'' said Doug Delaney, a local playwright and director who guides the 23-person ensemble through "Carnival.'' "What I did was I explained what some of the references were, and the cast came up with today's equivalent. There are other pieces that are still great the way they are.''
"Thurber Carnival,'' a theatrical revue based on the writings of the noted American humorist, ran on Broadway in the early 1960s.
THURBER HIMSELF, who lived from 1894 to 1961, is famous for his short stories such as "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,'' about a day-dreaming everyman, and "The Night the Bed Fell on Your Father.'' He also wrote a play and drew hundreds of cartoons that depict the battle of the sexes. Many of his writings and cartoons appeared originally in The New Yorker.
"Most of the cast knew about Walter Mitty, but everything else was kind of obscure,'' Delaney said.
The material, adapted from Thurber's stories and cartoons, is arranged into blackout sketches and monologues that occasionally are set to music. On Broadway the revue had a jazz score; at the Arts Center the cast will produce its own music using percussion instruments and voices, Delaney said.
THERE ARE other differences. The original "Thurber Carnival'' company included eight players; Delaney had to open up the various sketches and set-pieces to accommodate his 23 performers. But at the same time he had to simplify the production.
"The script calls for rotating scenery and sidewalks, which we couldn't do,'' he said. "We had the choice of setting it someplace or no place, so we decided to set it no place. It just happens.''
"Thurber Carnival'' is the second and final Summer Youth Theatre production, but Delaney won't stop there. Starting Aug. 6, the Renegade Theatre Company, which he founded, will produce "Renegade Roulette,'' a group of eight short plays and sketches by Lawrence playwrights. Delaney will be one of four directors working on the production. That production will run through Aug. 9.
"Thurber Carnival'' will be performed at 8 p.m. today through Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Lawrence Arts Center, Ninth and Vermont. Tockets are available at the center.