Probably the least likely author to write a fairy tale was James Thurber, the sophisticated humorist and cartoonist for The New Yorker.
But like his friend E.B. White, who wrote "Charlotte's Web'' and "Stuart Little,'' Thurber dabbled in writing tales for children that send clear messages to adults as well. Thurber's effort, called "The Thirteen Clocks,'' now comes to Lawrence as a stage musical that will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Crafton-Preyer Theatre.
"Clocks,'' presented by the Kansas University Theatre for Young People, is being performed all week for invited school groups. The Saturday night performance, however, is open to the public.
Basically, "Clocks'' deals with a duke who has 13 defective clocks. A young man goes out to save the princess, whom the duke controls, grab lots of jewels and eventually get the clocks running again.
FORTUNATELY, he befriends the elf-like Golux, who helps him meet all the necessary entrance requirements to happily-ever-after land.
Lewin Goff, adjunct professor of theater and film, directs "Clocks.'' He worked as director of the Kansas University Theatre and professor of drama at KU from 1955 until 1967, and he retired in 1989 as director of theater at the University of Iowa. He directed "Bertha, the Sewing Machine Girl'' last year at the Lawrence Community Theatre.
"I'm trying to let the characters come through in the staging,'' Goff said in a recent telephone interview. "It's a fairy tale. I'm not trying to do anything special with it.''
The Summer Youth Theatre at the Lawrence Arts Center produced "A Thurber Carnival'' last summer.
SINCE THE fairy tale preserves Thurber's famous wit, Goff said the show probably will be as enjoyable for adults as it is for children.
"As a matter of fact, some of the dialogue is kind of adult,'' he said. "It'll probably click for the parents who will be there with their kids Saturday night.''
The fairy tale was adapted by Fred Sadoff, with music by Mark Bucci. Lawrence resident Seth Osburn serves as music director, Mark Reaney, associate professor of theatre and film, designed the sets and costumes. The lighting is by Michael Reese, doctoral student in theatre, and sophomore Aimee Nicholson is choreographing the work.
Goff said he likes the easy-going nature of the lead characters. If anything, the fairy tale is a spoof of more earnest heroes who do battle with the forces of nature. He also said his cast worked hard to capture the nature of the piece.
"I think the cast has really gotten into the spirit of it,'' Goff said.