Life lessons come to life on Judson stage with ‘Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten’

“Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” is a book made popular in the 1980s, but some are unaware of the play of the same name — or that it contains music. Judson University will present it at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, Oct. 23-26, at Thulin Auditorium in Thompson Hall, on Judson’s Elgin campus, 1151 N. State St. Tickets are $5-$12.

The New York Times bestseller written in 1986 by Robert Fulghum has sold seven million copies. Filled with folksy advice, such as extolling the value of taking naps, the book was based in the simple lessons of childhood. 

In 1992, Fulghum worked with David Caldwell, a composer and musical director, to transform the essays into a musical.

According to Kimberly E. Schmidt, director of Judson Theatre and assistant professor of Speech Communication and Performing Arts at Judson, the university’s production interpretation might not fit the definition of a musical.

“There are four songs,” said Schmidt, an Elgin resident. “One song opens act one and closes act one and the same with act two. It’s billed as a play with music, not a full on musical.”

The plays sticks to the stories contained in “Everything I Need to Know” as well as Fulghum’s other published books: “It Was on Fire When I Lay Down on It,” “Uh-Oh, It’s Almost Christmas,” and “Maybe, Maybe Not,” with created monologues and scenes for the stage.

“It is a story telling show in that each scene is complete in itself and tells its own story. It’s mostly one person telling the story and then other people come in an add to it,” said Schmidt. by signing up you agree to our terms of service.                                                                                                                                                                          

One of those bringing the story to the stage is Aneesah Phillips, a freshman at Judson from Bloomingdale.

“In one of the scenes I play a kindergarten teacher,” Phillips said. “In another, I’m a narrator where I talk about a wedding that went terribly wrong at the last moment.”

Judson University’s production of “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” will feature life lessons shared through monologues, vignettes and song. – Courtesy of Judson University

Phillips thinks people in all stages of life could look at the production as a refresher course in the basic life lessons that develop into road maps as time goes on.

“They seem to be simple lessons at first glance, but during troubles and facts of life we often forget they’re what we need,” she said. “I think people of my age to 30 might benefit from this,” adding that an older audience might find it insightful as well.

Schmidt said children will be entertained by the fast-moving vignettes.

“It’s totally family friendly,” Schmidt said. “A child 8 or 9 (years old) would be able to enjoy it. The scenes are short so they would be able to follow, pick up things and remember it.”

“Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” was not Schmidt’s first choice. There was another play set to be produced but, Schmidt decided on another path after the recent violence in El Paso and California.

“I thought, ‘I don’t want to do anything dark. I want something happy and uplifting,’ and came across this,” she said.

“It’s a lot of fun. It ranges from stories where people will almost be falling off their chairs to poignant and wiping a tear or two,” she added. “I want to … feel good that here are good people in the world and the things that really matter in the world (are) our friends, our family and the good people we can do.”

Other cast members include Amir Scott, Lydia Alpert, Malina Sanchez, Rose Wodeck, Jacob Choate, Spencer Armstrong, David Larsen and Rachel Rosborough.

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