Skip to main content

An Unlikely Friendship Is Revealed for Spring Imagine U

“The Reluctant Dragon” explores diversity and prejudice

EVANSTON, Ill. --- “The Reluctant Dragon,” based on an 1898 short story for children by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame, examines diversity and prejudice and encourages children not to be afraid to form a friendship with someone who is different.

The Northwestern University Imagine U production will be staged from May 8 through May 24 as part of the spring theatre season at the Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts.

Grahame’s best-known book is “The Wind in the Willows.” Grahame’s “The Reluctant Dragon” was adapted for the stage by American playwright and Washington, D.C.-based family theatre director Mary Hall Surface. Surface’s nationally successful adaptation was originally co-commissioned by the Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences and the Seattle Children’s Theatre.

Northwestern’s performances will take place at the Hal and Martha Hyer Wallis Theater, 1949 Campus Drive, on the University’s Evanston campus. The hourlong show will feature a Northwestern student cast.

This quirky and heartwarming tale is geared for children aged 5 to 10 and their families. It will be directed by Lynn Kelso, Imagine U artistic mentor and School of Communication faculty member. Kelso teaches storytelling and theatre for young audiences at Northwestern and is a founding member of Imagine U. She also conducts storytelling workshops and directs productions at Chicago area schools.


“The Reluctant Dragon” is set outside the English village of Guildemere. It tells the story of a young boy who overcomes his prejudices about dragons when he discovers the most unusual one in a cave. This mythical reptilian-like creature would rather paint watercolors and write poetry than fight and breathe fire.

Their secret friendship flourishes until St. George, the legendary dragon slayer, arrives in town. When the townspeople tell tall tales of the dragon’s dastardly deeds -- such as blaming the innocent dragon for their dying crops and sour milk -- the boy and the knight negotiate a compromise in this delightful adaptation.

“In our world that is filled with turmoil and violence, many of us have fears that are a result of prejudices and misunderstandings of those who are different from us,” said Kelso. “This play explores the power of friendship and how even the youngest of us can overcome fear and solve the problem of the prejudices that exist in the village.”

Stories on stage are fun and creative ways for children to see rather than be told how to find the honesty in a situation and to make friends with others, Kelso said.

“The Reluctant Dragon” will be staged at 7 p.m. Friday, May 8; 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 9; 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 10; 2 p.m. Saturday, May 16; 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 17; 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, May 23; and 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday, May 24.

Tickets are $10 for general public; and $10 for full-time students with valid IDs (at the door) or $5 exclusively for full-time Northwestern students on advance purchases only. Discounts are available for groups of eight or more.

For more information, phone 847-491-4819, visit the Wirtz Center website at or email

Editor's Picks

Back to top