Budding with creativity

by Lenise Willis

Photo by Ingrid Palmquist

Creating an entire world comes easy as a child. Castle walls are built in seconds, dragons are slayed with magical swords, and even human-sized bugs spring to life to join an adventure. It’s easy as a child. But as an adult, it takes the help of talented and creative designers to help bring the theatrical world of pretend to life.

Costume designer Kimberley Jones is one such reliable individual that breathed life into a childhood classic: James and the Giant Peach, which UNC Greensboro is performing Friday through next Thursday.

“We didn’t want to copy the characters from the book nor do what had already been done in other productions,” Jones said, which is why she took to both nature and even Pinterest to generate new ideas and inspiration. The result, Jones said, are costumes that are “abstract versions of the natural insect they represent.”

“I love the very individualized look of each character,” Jones continued, “and yet together their costumes present visual unity.”

Creating that personal flare for each character is important in such a tale with such interesting characters, and it no doubt helps the actors to identify with their roles. Jones mentioned the most intriguing thing about her costumes is actually getting to see them come to life as the actors become one with them.

In addition to the abstract costumes, director Abigail Van Patter said she also worked closely with two composers who wrote all original music for the show, making UNCG’s production unique. “It brought such life to not only the play, but to each of the characters,” Van Patter said. “Overall, the show is greatly influenced by my love for European TYA. I come from a classical music background, and I have always heard these bugs in musical terms.”

“I love that this production allows for every generation to engage in imaginative play,” Van Patter added.

Van Patter, the designers and the actors referred to the classic book in preparation for the performance. “I loved this book as a child,” Van Patter said. “My parents read it out loud to us as children many times. That love for Dahl’s writing has not dissipated with adulthood. His delicious contrast between nasty and nice, dark and light, and his stunning ability to create the child protagonist is enough to keep me coming back for more.”

In the imaginative tale, a young boy James lives with his two aunts—two of the most horrible aunts in England. The wicked women never let James play with the other children, and instead treat him like a slave with endless chores. The boy’s life looks grim until one magical day. He happens upon a mystical old man who gives him a bag of magic, which James later accidentally spills near an old peach tree. That’s when the most incredible things begin to happen, and together with a new slew of friends to “bug” him along the way, the boy begins the adventure of his life.

“I am most excited to see kids react to Roald Dahl’s characters again, this story, the way that I did,” Van Patter said. “I have fallen in love with this story all over again through this experience and the power of unlikely friendships, courage and the simplicity of hope.” !


UNC Greensboro performs James and the Giant Peach March 18-24 at Taylor Theatre, 406 Tate St., Greensboro. Tickets are $18 for adults, $12 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information visit or call 334-4392.