CLASSIC TALE - Volunteers with Tree House Youth Theatre work on set pieces for the troupe’s upcoming performance of The Reluctant Dragon. The show opens May 3rd at the Scott Block.                                photo submitted

CLASSIC TALE - Volunteers with Tree House Youth Theatre work on set pieces for the troupe’s upcoming performance of The Reluctant Dragon. The show opens May 3rd at the Scott Block. photo submitted

Tree House Youth Theatre presents Kenneth Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon

Shows run May 3rd-5th; 10th-12th at the Scott Block Theatre

The talented troupe of Tree House Youth Theatre is putting the finishing touches on their latest production The Reluctant Dragon opening May 3rd.

Additional shows run May 4th-5th; 10th-12th at the Scott Block Theatre with curtain at 7:30 p.m. Matinee shows also run May 5th and 12th with curtain at 2 p.m.

Directed by Nicole Leal, this show (adapted by Mary Hall Surface) is based on the book by famed British author Kenneth Grahame, also known for his international classic The Wind in the Willows.

In Grahame’s story, a young boy, Glaston, discovers a dragon living in the downs above his home.

The two become friends, but soon afterwards the dragon is discovered by the townsfolk.

They promptly send for a knight by the name of St. George to rid them of it. Glaston introduces St. George to the dragon, and the two decide that it would be better for them not to fight.

Ultimately, St. George assures the townsfolk that the dragon is not dangerous. So the dragon is then accepted by the people.

“I knew about this story from when I was a kid,” explained Leal during a recent chat about the show. “I love how you get to see the relationship of Glaston, the little boy who becomes friends with the dragon – you get to see his relationship with the village people as well as the dragon,” she said, adding that the story also teaches some important lessons about jumping to conclusions about others and the dangers of judging too quickly.

“There is comedy in this play in the way it was written, but then there is also this way of tackling real issues of judging a book by its cover.

“There are also some fight scenes in it, so I had someone come in and teach them some combat so they really enjoyed that,” she added with a laugh. She also pointed out that Grahame’s writing always carries a message, and that’s something she particularly admires about his style and timeless gift via storytelling.

Grahame penned the story in 1898, and it was originally published as a chapter in his book Dream Days.

Meanwhile, Tree House Youth Theatre was created in 1988 and was the brainchild of Richard O’Brien who was head of the Theatre Arts Program at Red Deer College (RDC).

With the hiring of Matt Gould in 2005, Tree House entered a new era of exploration and creation. Over Gould’s 10 years as artistic director he produced, directed (and in some cases wrote) over one dozen productions.

In 2015, Leal began her mentorship under Gould, making her directing debut with Charlotte’s Web (2016) and 2017’s Into the Woods Jr. among others.

“It’s been interesting because they grow up so fast,” she said of the joys of working for Tree House. “Even from when I was there doing some one-acts with Matt, some of them are still in the group with me. Just getting to watch them grow up has probably been the most impacting for me – seeing them become more experienced with the craft of acting and watching their confidence grow stronger every time I work with them,” she added.

In 2016, Leal, who also works as the production manager for Central Alberta Theatre, also won the emerging artist award through the Red Deer Arts Council, which solidified her journey to continue working in the theatre.

She’s also a terrific actor in her own right, but these days, directing is a passion she is thrilled to be pursuing.

“I love being able to see the process from where we start to what it ends up being, and to see how it all comes together,” she explained. “The kids learn to trust me, which is a big deal to me. It’s a gift which I love to be able to have from them.

“Eventually, it becomes their project, too. You see that onstage when they’ve taken it onto themselves to give their own take on how they feel about the project.

“Directing is also about the whole vision behind it. What is the message here? What is it I’m trying to portray through this story which was a book and is now written for the stage? Those messages are what really get me excited.”

For more about Tree House Youth Theatre, or for tickets, check out