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The Novel and the Play Author Lois Lowry wrote Gossamer as a novel and then adapted her own story into the play that People’s Light is producing. In Gossamer, two worlds intersect — the world of humans and the magical world of “dream-givers” who collect story fragments and memories from meaningful belongings and weave them together to deliver dreams to people. Littlest One is just learning to give dreams to people. She and her teacher Thin Elderly visit an older woman and her new foster child — a young boy named John — who has experienced violence in his past. Littlest One brings John dreams and stories that help him move toward a happier future. The first edition of Gossamer by Lois Lowry was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2006. It was reprinted as a paper-back with Yearling books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York by arrangement with Houghton Mifflin in January 2008. Lowry was co-commissioned by Oregon Children’s Theatre (Portland, OR) and First Stage Children’s Theatre (Milwaukee, WI) to adapt her novel for the stage; the play premiered in 2008. The play Lois Lowry is not yet published.

officer and again moved frequently, settling in Maine with her four children. There she earned a graduate degree at the University of Southern Maine and began her career as a freelance journalist and photographer in the early 1970s. Lowry published her first children’s book, A Summer to Die, in 1977. Now a grandmother, Lowry divides her time between Cambridge, MA and Maine and continues to write a variety of books, including the Anastasia series and Gooney Bird Greene stories as well as what she calls “stand alone” books. While her stories vary in content and style, the main theme remains the same: the importance of human connections. Lowry has written more than 30 books for young readers and has been awarded the prestigious Newbery Medal for Number the Stars in 1990 and The Giver in 1994. Gossamer is Ms. Lowry’s first play. ★ Costume design for John

About Lois Lowry Born in 1937, Lois Lowry enjoyed a world of books and imagination from a young age. Lowry’s father’s job in the military prompted their family to move often — Lowry was born in Hawaii and spent time in New York, Pennsylvania, and Tokyo all by the age of eleven. Lowry married a Naval

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DREAM WRITING ACTIVITY Make up a dream. Remember that dreams have their own logic and may contain unpredictable things, one thing changing into another, unusual juxtapositions of place and time, and many kinds of characters — humans, animals, monsters, etc. For this activity, don’t write a dream that you have experienced; make one up. Write your dream in present tense (Not “I saw” but “I see.”) The first line begins with “I am…”

The Dream-Givers

The Humans


The Woman

A veteran dream-giver, who considers Littlest One too erratic and curious

Foster parent for John

Littlest One

A young boy, who has temporarily been removed from his mother’s care

The newest dream-giver

Most Ancient The wise and aged leader of the dream-givers

Thin Elderly Littlest One’s teacher and mentor

Trooper Dowager Sinisteeds Bringers of nightmares


Young Woman John’s mother, who is trying to get back on her feet

John’s Father He has left the family, but appears in a dream ★

Toby, the Dog The Woman’s loyal companion

* The Dream-Givers together form “the heap” The Sinisteeds together form “a horde”

Costume design for Most Ancient

foster care what is foster care?

Foster care is the temporary placement of a child in a home away from his or her family. what is the average length of stay for a foster child?

12 months.


when does a child leave a foster home?

Children are moved out of foster homes when parents are able to care for them again, when a suitable placement can be made with a relative, or when a child is adopted. what is the average age of a foster child?

10 years old. source:

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The Dream-Givers

Maggie Fitzgerald Littlest One

Ceal Phelan Fastidious

Stephen Novelli Most Ancient

Christopher Mullen Thin Elderly

Justin Jain Trooper

Kristen O’Rourke Dowager

James Ijames Soldier/Dream-Giver

Dave Johnson Duane, John’s Father/ Dream-Giver

The Others For cast bios, please see the Gossamer program on the People’s Light website:

★ ★

Cathy Simpson The Woman

Chris Faith Toby, the Dog

Daniel Dychala John

Erin Weaver Young Woman


David Bradley

Rosemarie McKelvey


Costume Design

Pat Sabato

Joshua Schulman

Stage Manager

Lighting Design

Wilson Chin

Christopher Colucci

Set Design

Sound Design

Students pair up and decide who is “A” and who is “B.” Person A is a new dream-giver. Person B is the new dreamgiver’s teacher. Person A wants to convince his/her teacher that she/he is ready for a new challenge. The teacher isn’t sure and wants to proceed cautiously. Person A begins the conversation with this line: “Please let me give the dream to the boy by myself this time.” Hints: Both Person A and B put forward reasons for their positions. Both should avoid saying “no” because that stops the scene. Try to carry on the discussion until you reach a decision.

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The set design combines and juxtaposes dreamy images of nighttime that reflect the Dream-givers’ world with the harsher physical reality of the city where the human characters live. The set’s main structural elements are sections of scaffolding. These evoke a physical city life, but they are also filled with beautiful lights and lanterns to evoke the psychological world of the dream-givers.

Talking with the Lighting Designer Joshua Schulman has an MFA in Lighting Design from Boston University and was the recipient of the 2008 Barrymore Lighting Design Award for his work on Art at Delaware Theatre Company. Joshua has designed for Arcadia University, The Wilma Theater, Hotel Obligato, Azuka Theatre, Theatre Horizon, Rebecca Davis Dance Company, Tower Hill School, Delaware Theatre Company, InterAct Theatre Company, The Media Theatre Company, Inis Nua Theatre Company, and Flashpoint Theatre Company. Joshua has also designed for The Cira Centre and Boathouse Row Re-Lighting projects. See his work at his website: iWeb/Lighting%20Designer/Homepage.html What is the job of a Lighting Designer? I like to think of the Lighting Designer’s job as being the glue that binds the visual elements together. The lights are an integral part in blending the scenery, costumes, and actors into one world onstage.

Wilson Chin photo

The Set

Set design by Wilson Chin

What about lighting design excites you? I consider each project, each production, a big puzzle. I love the discovery of uncovering the pieces, of fitting them together. I see each play as a three-dimensional moving puzzle and the art is in the discovery of making the puzzle work. What excites you about Gossamer? The magic of the play, and how we are going to make that magic flicker into and out of existence onstage. The Dream-givers live both in their own world and in ours (the world of humans). I am excited about the collaboration between the other designers and myself in creating a believable world where this is possible. I have worked with costume designer Rosemarie McKelvey and sound designer Chris Colucci before and am looking forward to collaborating with them again, as well as working with the set designer Wilson Chin, who I haven’t worked with before. What is the design concept for Gossamer? Overall, the design is meant to be subtle, to really help establish and highlight the magic of the story. The lighting design, specifically, will have a dance-like feel, with the angles of the lighting instruments meant to isolate specific spots onstage rather than lighting the whole stage all at once. The lights will work to motivate the magic and shift between worlds. All of the design elements will work together as if in a dance, depending on who is leading. At one point, lights might lead the shift between worlds, at another point sound might lead, or the set or costumes but they will all be working together to achieve the magic that is the play. What are some of the challenges that the design team has encountered?


production history Lowry’s play adaption of Gossamer has been produced at the following places: • premiers: First Stage Children’s Theatre in Milwaukee, WI (September 2008) and Oregon Children’s Theatre (November 2008) • New York University’s New Plays for Young Audiences series (June 15-22, 2008) • Adventure Stage in Chicago, IL (November 7-December 5, 2009) • People’s Light and Theatre Company in Malvern, PA (April 29-May 23, 2010)

How far to push the magic. In terms of the nightmare moments of the play, how do we suggest a hint of a nightmare to the audience rather than simply showing them? We are playing with selective revelations in the design. ★

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in acting. But, this time, I will be learning how to listen with animal ears. What does Toby hear? What affects him? Dogs are sensitive to volume, inflection, and rate of speech as well as the words they are familiar with. Tell us your thoughts about the dog’s relationship with John, the boy.

Portraying a Dog In Gossamer, Chris Faith will be performing the role of Toby, the Dog. We asked him about how he is approaching this role. What previous animals have you played? I played a pig in a musical version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and I played “Rat” in Cinderella, the People’s Light Panto in 2008. But this is the first time I’ve played a role that doesn’t have any lines.

They have in common that they’ve both been through rough times. The woman found Toby abandoned on her doorstep in a rainstorm. He was probably neglected, perhaps abused. At first Toby is wary of the boy. He sees and hears that the boy is aggressive and talks roughly. Dogs are in tune with human moods. They are very perceptive animals. It takes a while for Toby and the boy to sniff each other out — they have to figure out whether they can trust each other. ★

But the role will include making some sounds, right? Yes; Toby’s sounds will be fun to discover in rehearsal.

My “source of study” is my dog Gracie, a toy poodle, who has been with my family for 8 years. I grew up with dogs and am a dog person. I’m studying Gracie’s physicality — how she moves, why she moves, when she moves. Every movement is for a reason. Dogs have subtle facial expressions. There’s so much going on in their eyes. What do you anticipate will be challenging? I will be trying to strike a balance of dog and human in this role. Human facial expressions are much broader than dog’s. But the audience needs to get enough from me to see how Toby is responding to each situation. I will look for the happy medium between how humans express things in our faces and how dogs do. Listening will be huge. Listening is always important

Costume design for Toby, the Dog

David Bradley Director David has been a company member at People Light since 1991. Most recently, David directed the Philadelphia Young Playwrights 2010 Professional Productions at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre and opened the new season of the National Constitution Center’s play Living News (for which he is Artistic Director). His two dozen People’s Light productions include Doubt, Young Lady from Rwanda, The Crucible, He Held Me Grand, A View from the Bridge and many plays for the Family Series, including three Pantos and The Giver, also from a Lois Lowry novel. David works in Philadelphia and beyond as a director, arts educator and consultant, often focusing on the intersection of the arts and community/civic engagement. He’s co-founder of LiveConnections, which creates music programs for underserved youth at World Cafe Live, has directed frequently for Indiana Rep, and has been a consulting artist for the Animating Democracy Initiative of Americans for the Arts. David is president of the board for Philadelphia’s Shakespeare in Clark Park. ★

Gossamer epigraph


How are you preparing for the role?

Lois Lowry used the quotation below as the epigraph for her novel gossamer: We are such stuff as dreams are made on; and our little life is rounded with a sleep. ~ William Shakespeare, The Tempest (IV, i)

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Do you remember your dreams? Some. Especially those that recur. I even have a favorite, in fact: so much so that when it recurs I actually think — while deep asleep — “Oh, great, this dream again! I love it!” But at the same time, I suppose that, like most people, most of what I dream disappears on waking. If that weren’t true, the whole concept of dreams would not be so endlessly fascinating and mysterious.

In a speech for the Yale/Freud Symposium (October 21, 2006), author Lois Lowry told about an early inspiration for Gossamer. Lowry heard this story from her brother. The brother had gone to visit their mother in the hospital; at the time their mother was very confused. There, he saw his mother crying and saying, “Dorothy’s baby has died.” Dorothy was a friend of their mother’s who had lost a baby 50 years earlier. Lowry’s brother asked, “Mother, are you seeing Dorothy? Are you with Dorothy? Or are you just remembering her?” The mother replied to him, “In the Dreamworld, it doesn’t matter.” Those words stayed with Lowry and she later decided to write a book about the Dreamworld.

In Gossamer, you choose descriptive words (Littlest, Thin Elderly, Fastidious) instead of traditional names. Can you talk a little about why you did this? In the first draft of Gossamer, Littlest actually had a “real” name. Along the way, it disappeared: it no longer felt right, it felt too human. I began to perceive that ... the dream-givers would be more ethereal, would lack some of the more prosaic human elements: names, houses, pets, and hobbies ... They are really unencumbered except for spirit. I suppose they could be described as pure spirit. Littlest reminds me of my own small grandchildren, and of all little ones whose heads are so full of thoughts, and who are so curious and intent on figuring out their place in the world. ★ Speech and interview used with the permission of the author.

Lowry spoke further about Gossamer in an interview for Copyright © 2006 Houghton Mifflin Company. © Copyright 1998-2010, What were your inspirations for Gossamer? I’m so interested, always, in how the bits and pieces of our lives go together, how they form a narrative, and how important they are to us ... I dealt with that, the importance of our memories, in a book called The Giver, and in the personal memoir called Looking Back, as well. But thoughts about memory were haunting me, still, when I sat down to write the book that would be called Gossamer.

Costume design for Littlest One

The two young actors in Gossamer, Daniel Dychala (age 11), who plays John, and Maggie Fitzgerald (age 13), who plays Littlest One, gave us some of their ideas about dreams. Daniel: Dreams are uncontrollable, but it’s kind of like your mind ... Maggie: has a reason for it. D: Your mind picked it. The brain has so many layers. M: Dreams are things you want to hear and nightmares are things you don’t want to hear but you’re blatantly told you have to. D: You need to dream. Sometimes when you have dreams, it’s like an epiphany — it kind of hits you: “That’s what I gotta do.” M: In dreams you can see things that you already knew in a different way. ★

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CHILDHOOD MEMORY: A WRITING ACTIVITY In Gossamer, memories help the characters in difficult times. Memories are elusive — often we can only remember fragments of what happened. To brainstorm: Write out as much as you can about one of your very early memories. You may write it in a first person narrative, as a list, or make a drawing.

Then, using your brainstorm for reference, answer the following questions about your memory: What is one word that describes the sound of this memory? Memory and imagination play a big part in Gossamer. The Dream-givers collect memories from objects found in their humans’ homes, and then pass on the memories in fragments to the humans to create dreams. The dreams include fragments of songs, past experiences with loved ones, and significant places. Littlest One and Thin Elderly bestow these joyful fragments from the past as a way to strengthen John and The Woman against nightmares.

What is one word that describes the color of this memory? What is one word that describes the taste and/or smell of this memory? What is one word that describes the feeling of this memory?

How Humans Store Memories Finally, using the information you have gathered, write the story of this The human brain stores sounds, images, and smells in memory, incorporating as many specific details as you can. multiple ways, and in different parts of the brain. Neurons pass information through the brain by sending neuron signals to each other with the help of synapses. Imagine if you had a friend in the house across the street from you and the two of you decided to send messages to each other with flashlight signals. Just as the flashlight signals would allow you to communicate thoughts to your friend, the brain synapses allow neurons to send messages to other neurons in the brain. Visual information can be stored as Working Memory (also known as Short-Term Memory) in the Frontal Cortex, Emotional Memory in the Amygala, Long-Term Memory in the Hippocampus, and Habits and Skills in the Cerebellum.

Imagination and Memory Imagination allows humans to solve complex problems by recalling and combining information and memories in new ways. We use it to solve problems while we are awake in our daily lives and in the creation of dreams while we sleep. We also use it recreationally, from creating an imaginary friend when we are little, to playing sports in high school.

Dream-giver drawing by Mark Donohue

In Theatre School at People’s Light, the imagination is at the center of our classes on improvisation and acting. This winter after an introduction to Gossamer, the students in one of our sections of the Theatre Workshop for Grades 4-6 imagined and drew themselves as Dream-givers. They not only used their imaginations to create the actual images, but also used different colors, shapes, pens, crayons, markers, and highlighters to give each Dream-giver an original design. ★ Source: “Memory: Why We Remember, Why We Forget.” National Geographic. November 2007. Vol. 212. No. 5

Dream-giver drawing by Natalie Besier

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• Various small objects (a doll, a sea shell, a ball, an exotic coin, a miniature shoe, etc.) The more colorful and visually dynamic the objects, the better. • A large bag to hold the objects, preferably black and not see-through. It is best if the students do not see the objects before they pick them from the bag. The Activity:

Students sit in a circle. The teacher has each student pick an object from the large bag. The students take a few minutes to look at and hold the object. (This first part should be done individually without talking.)

The teacher moves around the circle and asks each student to tell the story of the object (the students are making up the story on the spot). Often it is helpful if the teacher models the activity first — choosing an object and improvising a story about it. Where did it come from? How did the student find or obtain the object? What is it used for? (The students are welcome to identify the object however they choose. For example, a student might pick out a rolling pin and say that it is an instrument for wrapping string around.) After all the students have had a chance to introduce their objects, the group can discuss what they noticed about the objects and stories in the circle. Were there any stories they wanted to hear more about? Were they surprised by what some of the objects could do?

Costume design for a Sinisteed

Significance of Dreams in Ancient Cultures Babylonians believed good dreams were sent by the gods, and bad dreams were sent by demons. Assyrians believed in dreams as omens and that bad dreams required action to correct the problem.

marketplace. The Romans believed that dreams were derived directly from the gods and could reveal their wishes.

The Romans took dreams very seriously. Emperor Augustus Caesar ruled that anyone who had a dream about the state was, by law, to proclaim it in the

Source: 26857/historyofdreams.htm

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The Greeks took up the Egyptian belief of “incubating” dreams and had very specific pre-sleep rituals to perform in order to purify themselves to receive dreams.

The ancient Hebrews differentiated between good dreams (from God) and bad dreams (from evil spirits) and tried to induce dreams in order to receive divine revelation. ★

The ancient Egyptians believed that dreams served as oracles. The best way to receive divine revelation was through dreaming and thus the Egyptians would induce or “incubate” dreams.

Guide written by Amy Lipman, Sara Waxman and Nancy Shaw of the Education Department at People’s Light. Costume Designs by Rosemarie McKelvey. Set design by Wilson Chin. Play Artwork by Margraffix Design (illustration by Morganstern). Guide Design by Gary Brooks of Hollister Creative. Copyright © 2010 The People’s Light & Theatre Company. All rights reserved.

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Gossamer BACKSTAGE  

Learn all about GOSSAMER, by Lois Lowry, the Newbery Award-winning author of THE GIVER. This wonderful guide includes information about the...