Announcing: this October 15th, Northern Michigan University’s Forest Roberts Theater presents the first, full-on stage play of Above the Timberline!

The Art and Theater Departments have gathered their talents, collected a 28-member cast, and assembled an enthusiastic production team to create a fantastic glimpse into the Timberline world.

I was initially approached by the illustration department to visit the school and do a talk and lecture for the illustration students. Before long, I was speaking with representatives from both departments asking if they could have the right to produce a stage play of the book. I gave them an enthusiastic ‘yes!’ and started to work on the script.

At the same time, the NMU team went to work building props, stage settings, and wildest of all, large-scale polar bear puppets!

They wanted to keep as much of a flavor of the story as possible in the production. To accomplish that feeling they asked to use the paintings from the novel as backdrops for scenes. They will be projected on a twenty-four foot screen, upstage of the performers.

Working closely with the director, Keli Crawford-Truckey, over several months and about ten drafts later, the Timberline script was ready.

During the Summer, I revisited many of the paintings from the book and digitally removed figures, animals, and anything unnecessary to keep the stage and performances the highlight of the tale. This also allowed me to make adjustments to some of the paintings, including adding more imagery to broaden the aspect ratio of the scenes. I’ve included several examples below.

At the same time, the NMU team went to work building props, stage settings, and wildest of all, large-scale polar bear puppets!

Similar to the play, War Horse, where onstage puppeteers brought the animals to life, so too will the polar bears perform onstage, along with their nemesis, snow leopards. The rhinos will make an appearance as well.

As with any interpretation or translation from written word to stage or screen (this one includes both) scenes were reworked for efficiency and several things edited, modified, or dropped altogether. One must be open to allowing others to create their own visions for your material. This opened me up for a wonderful collaboration with other artists. (I’ll share some of the costume designs when I can. Beautiful!) The entire process has been so fascinating that I’m re-energized to work another storyline into the Timberline world.


On top of all that, an original score is being written for the production, along with sound effects. Other exciting news is that they plan to travel the show and hopefully film it for limited availability online.

The NMU production team has already begun rehearsals and I’ll be traveling to the college to speak and be there for all the tech and dress rehearsals. I plan to provide photos and quick glimpses into the production as it comes to fruition. Stay tuned here and at my Instagram and Facebook pages for updates.

Seven performances are planned. Would love to see you there if you can make it!