By Matt Buchanan
ABOUT THE PLAY
Ernie's Place was developed at the University of Texas as part of their Youth Theatre Tour program. The original production toured elementary schools throughout Austin. It has since played in many states and abroad. Ernie's Place is a challenging play that will give young performers a chance to sink their teeth into really substantial, emotionally true characters. The play uses a cast of two male and two female, plus a third male who has only one line and is usually played by the stage manager.
Louie tries in vain to get Stella to open up in the UTexas production.
The play tells the story of three children who must adjust to the change in life occasioned by a move. Stella, Louie and Max have moved from the city to the suburbs after their parents' divorce. They have retreated into themselves, and are reluctant to trust or to need anyone else. They have appropriated a shed in their new backyard and made it their "super secret clubhouse."
One day they discover a homeless man sleeping in their clubhouse. The man is quickly removed by the authorities, but in Mom's absence the children try to figure out who he is and what happened to him. Why is he homeless? He has left behind a bag of possessions, which the children see as clues.
"Ernie" makes himself at home.
Through a series of play-acted scenarios, the children explore various theories to explain Ernie. But while the children investigate "Ernie's" past, they are really exploring their own sense of spiritual "homelessness," or placelessness. Each child in turn imagines just the scenario he or she most fears for herself.
The children finally decide to give up their clubhouse so Ernie can have a place to live. This is a big decision, because it means they will lose their safe refuge and will have to make friends with the kids in their new hometown. When Mom returns home with the news that "Ernie" is dead, the children decide to reopen their club, this time open to everyone, in Ernie's honor.
The children invade the clubhouse.