WESTFIELD, NJ — Head to Westminster Hall at the Presbyterian Church in Westfield this May to be greeted on stage by foxes, rabbits and badgers. Not real ones, of course—actors from the Hedgehog & Feather Theatre Company’s performance of Roald Dahl’s children’s story, “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” adapted from the book by the company’s director, Ty Jacobs.

“Fantastic Mr. Fox” is a story about a mischievous fox who loves stealing from the local farmers that live near his home. All seems well in the fox community until the evil farmers plan to exterminate Mr. Fox, as well as all of Mr. Fox’s woodland friends.

Jacobs plays the lead role of Mr. Fox, accompanied by a full cast of other foxes, badgers and rabbits played by both children and adults, many of whom live in Westfield.

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The play’s producer and co-founder of the Westfield-based performance company, Sara Hedgepeth, takes pride in making theater fun and educational for children of all ages. The company began as a five-week summer camp for children.

“We like to think of the summer camp being sort of like our farm team,” said Hedgepeth.

“The summer camp is often a starting point for a lot of the actors to eventually get to the point where they want to audition for a full show,” added Jacobs.

These days, the company puts on three fully produced shows per year and also is beginning to offer internships for students out of college.

Regardless of what play is being performed, education is a priority.

“Along the lines of the plays being educational, they are based on books,” Jacobs said. “The kids that come to the show read the book beforehand to know the story, or say now I want to read the book. It broadens the scope beyond theater to be literary.”

As the producer and instructor to many of these young children, it is Hedgepeth’s goal to try to inspire a love of theater into each child.

“We’re trying to educate kids that it’s not all about acting, there are so many jobs in the theater, and they are not even aware,” said Hedgepeth. “It’s to create a love of theater even if you’re not on stage.”

Hedgepeth and Jacobs, as well as Costume Designer Alisa Korunow and all of the actors have worked hard during the past few months to bring the play to life.

Performances of the family-friendly show begin on May 9 and will continue until May 17. Tickets on sale now for $15 at the Westminster Hall Presbyterian Church, or click here to order online. Learn more at http://hedgehogandfeather.org/fantastic_mr_fox.  

In the words of McKenzie Waddell, a young actor and little rabbit number two in the play, “It’s awesome!”

The reporter wrote this story as part of a journalism partnership with Kean University.