Three years ago, Jason Woods embraced his second act as a full-time playwright. Now, Woods is staging an encore performance of his two-act play St. George and the Dragon December 17-19 at WJCT Studios. The comedic fantasy is a visually stunning adventure full of magic, poetry, and cake for the whole family. The magical tale reminds us that gallant knights, fair maidens, and even fearsome dragons may not be what they seem, and we all might be a little braver than we ever believed.
The legend of St. George is based on ancient tales of fearless knights risking their lives to save villagers and beautiful maidens by slaying fearsome dragons. St. George is the patron saint of England, which, along with many other countries, celebrates St. George’s Day during annual festivals held in April.
Woods’ imagination has inspired a whimsical translation of the legend, with a special emphasis on humor. As a director, his credits include productions of The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, The Music Man, Charlotte’s Web, Oliver, and The Wizard of Oz. His acting credits include Ludwig van Beethoven in The 5 & Dime’s production of 33 Variations, Elwood P. Dowd in Mary Chase’s Harvey, and Duke Frederick in Shakespeare’s As You Like It. Woods is also in his fourth year of presenting his stunning solo stage performance of his adaptation of A Christmas Carol, in which he portrays 25 characters.
St. George and the Dragon tells the story of a young girl who is enchanted by her father’s stories of knights and dragons. When his daughter proclaims her hopes to one day become a knight, he assures her that she can be anything she wishes. “I always had a thing I never understood about knights and dragons. Maybe it’s the boy in me, but I had an idea about a little girl years ago that wanted to be a knight in a world that won’t let her be one.”
When her father is lost on a journey, Olivia must reconcile her uncertain future with a new stepfather who refuses to indulge her dreams of becoming a knight. “He says, ‘The world will never let you be a knight,’ and that stays with her forever.”
The reprisal comes after a successful October run that earned the play rave reviews but left Woods feeling he could do better. “I did some rewrites after we closed because I saw what wasn’t working for me as a writer. People were really cheering about this battle between this girl and the dragon, and they loved it. They loved the character, but they weren’t really rooting for her. I wanted people to root for her,” he says. “I learned a lot about bravery this summer. The writers’ group I was working with really helped me. I worked very hard, but they held my feet to the fire. I learned a lot about letting my guard down every time I went in.”
Woods introduces a delightful collection of charming characters. Three colorful fairies, Margaret, Mistletoe, and Stella, act as narrators of the show. There is a witch and her companion, Erik the Goblin. Checkley, the baker, delivers a comedic monologue about baking a cake. His sidekick is Tumble, an actor wannabe, who has previously played trees on stage, and once portrayed a horse in A Man who Had no Horse. Moonwig Grumblemuff is a wizard who has been consulted for help in dealing with the dragon. His amazing home has many surprises, including bookshelves full of talking books and a talking map. And what would an epic dragon tale be without an epic dragon?
Woods’ dragon comes to life with the help of puppeteers including his children, Boston Woods and Hannah Woods. Woods created his vision of the dragon from metal wires and leather with sharp teeth and piercing green eyes and ability to breathe fire. But this dragon, as voiced by Woods, reveals that he writes poetry, and is peaceful, sophisticated, and shy.
The set itself is a work of art, and the blank canvas is transformed into a living set before the audience’s eyes. The sun dangles from a chain and clouds hang on magnets as the town rolls in piece by piece. A sweeping orchestral piece signals to the crowd that the story is ready to unfold. “There is nothing on the stage. You don’t know what to expect. Everything just rolls in,” says Woods. “That’s what I love about theatre. It’s supposed to take you on a journey. I want the audience to be able to come in and forget about the world outside.”
In the end, the maiden Olivia discovers the true nature of the dragon and is responsible for the happily ever after, but it’s Woods who is truly responsible for capturing the magic. Share a slice of the magic (and cake!) with your family December 17-19.