WMU Theatre produces world premiere for family audiences

Contact: Emily Duguay

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The University Theatre at Western Michigan University will present the world premiere of the family adventure "Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher" March 10-19 in Shaw Theatre at the Gilmore Theatre Complex on main campus.

Originally a children's book by Bruce Coville, "Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher" has been adapted for the stage by the WMU Department of Theatre and Kalamazoo playwright and Education for the Arts teaching artist Tucker Rafferty. The story follows Jeremy Thatcher, who is struggling to survive bullies, crushes and sixth-grade art class, when he stumbles into a very strange magic shop. He buys a dragon's egg and later learns he is responsible for hatching it. While raising a dragon, Jeremy learns to believe in magic, true friendship and the power of love.

Purchase tickets online: wmutheatre.com

Photo from WMU's Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher.

WMU's production of "Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher" (Photo credit: John Lacko)

Performance schedule

  • Friday, March 10, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 11, 1 p.m.—sensory-friendly performance
  • Sataurday, March 11, 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 12, 2 p.m.
  • Friday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, March 18, 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Sunday, March 19 at 2 p.m.

The production will feature sophisticated puppetry and digital projection effects. WMU theatre students have been working with South African guest artist in residence Jason Potgieter, who is serving as puppet director for the production. Under the direction of Potgieter, the company of puppeteers brings life to a dragon and several other animals to help tell this story of unlikely friendship. Potgieter talks about the use of puppetry:

"As a performance medium, puppetry is perfect for this kind of project. Tucker Rafferty's adaptation of Bruce Coville's award-winning novel works a fine balance between the mundane and magical aspects of the story, leaving room for actors, puppeteers and puppets, to shine equally."

The show will feature seven WMU theatre students as puppeteers. Brian Wiegand, a junior acting major says, "Learning about puppetry from Jason has been like reconnecting with the kid in me that fell in love with theatre in the first place. It combines the childish, imaginative wonder of playing with toys and the rigor of training for live theatre."


Potgieter is a freelance theatre arts practitioner currently based in Cape Town, South Africa. He is a puppeteer, actor, director and published playwright, and has worked with Handspring Puppet Company since 2007. Handspring Puppet Co. created the stunning and award-winning puppets featured in Broadway's "War Horse" in 2011. Potgieter is not a new face to the WMU Department of Theatre—he last worked with the department to create and direct the puppets for its popular production of "King Stag."

"Working with theatre students at WMU has always been a treat," Potgieter says. "Working on 'Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher' has been no exception. What strikes me most about this particular project is the incredible sense of ensemble—from the cast and crew to designers, puppet builders, arts administrators and management—everyone does their bit and when needed goes the extra mile to make sure that the process is slick and efficient. It feels great to be a part of something like that."

Unique experience for students

Joan Herrington, chair of the WMU Department of Theatre and director of the new show, reflects on the impact working with puppets can have on students:

"Bringing these animals and creatures to life is not only a magical experience for the audience but it is an incredible learning opportunity for our students. And it is truly wonderful for everyone to work on a world premiere. From reading this wonderful book, receiving permission from its author to turn it into a play, collaborating with our playwright, to seeing it finally come to life on stage, has been a magnificent experience. Bringing this book to life for the first time and seeing it live, breath, and change is the beauty of bringing a new production to life."

Sensory-friendly performance

For the first time, the WMU Department of Theatre will offer a performance exclusively for guests with special needs and their families. A supportive and sensory-friendly environment will be provided for families at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 11.

  • Adjustments will be made to lighting and sound cues to create a more sensory-friendly experience.
  • Guests will have an opportunity to meet and touch the puppets before the show.
  • A social story will be provided in advance of the show with detailed information and pictures for those who need to prepare for the experience.
  • A quiet space will be available for guests who need to take a break.
  • Members from the WMU School of Psychology will be training actors and staff and will be on hand at the performance as well.

WMU's Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher.For more information on this performance, contact Emily Duguay at (269) 387-3227 or emily.duguay@wmich.edu


"Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher" is presented in collaboration with Education for the Arts. Tickets are $16, $6 for WMU students and $10 for all other students. They are available by calling (269) 387-6222, online at wmutheatre.com, or by visiting the Gilmore Theatre Complex or Miller Auditorium ticket offices. Group discounts are available by calling (269) 387-3227. All seating is general admission.

For more information, contact Emily Duguay, University Theatre, at emily.duguay@wmich.edu or (269) 387-6222.

For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.