Junie B. is back

This winter, DePaul’s Theatre School is showcasing a theatrical production of “Junie B. Jones Is Not A Crook,” presented by Chicago Playworks for Families and Young Audiences.   

The play, written by playwright Allison Gregory and based on the 1997 Barbara Parks book of the same name, takes the audience along with Jones as she experiences the unique conflicts and twists and turns that sway her everyday life in her kindergarten classroom, Room Nine.  The storyline, along with a few vibrant musical numbers, entertains the audience with a colorful production chock-full of meaningful moments and humorous dialogue, all by way of the strong-willed and spunky personality of 5-year-old Junie B.  

Theatre student Caroline Hendricks as Junie B. Jones.  (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

The play begins with Junie B. Jones introducing herself with the iconic opening lines all readers of the beloved series remember, “My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all.”

From there, we travel with Jones as she loses her special furry black mittens, takes a swanky new pen while sifting through the lost and found, and encounters a slight rift between her and her friends as they discover they all like the same boy, Handsome Warren.

Drawing an all-inclusive audience, the play effectively teaches its watchers timeless lessons in responsibility, friendship and the value of individuality.  

DePaul student Caroline Hendricks who plays the lead role as Junie B. Jones loves the sense of freedom she feels while playing such a youthful, plain-spoken character.  

“With children, they’re so unapologetically themselves,” Hendricks said.  “(Jones) finds that (…) it’s easier just to be yourself and be vulnerable.  As adults, sometimes we shut that part off, so it’s fun to just be yourself and not care if something you do is weird or not the norm.”

Hendricks adds that she loves the message the play sends regarding being yourself and not caring what others think.  “If you’re yourself, there’s nothing else you have to be,” she said, “and it’s okay because people will love you for that.”

The director of the production, Krissy Vanderwarker, is glad to direct a play that not only graces the stage of the historic Merle Reskin Theatre but deeply considers the topic of friendship, something that isn’t discussed in theatre nearly as much or as in-depth as more romantic or family-centered relationships.

Vanderwarker also spoke about what she loved about the character of Jones and what she hopes the production can offer watchers of the play.

“Anytime we get to see a female protagonist and push against expectations of how she’s supposed to behave or act or look, that’s pretty exciting,” she said.  “And from a theatrical standpoint, it is big and colorful and really fun and very funny and it’s a great summer feeling in the midst of winter.”

“Junie B. Jones Is Not A Crook” is playing through Feb. 17 at DePaul’s Reskin Theatre.