Growing up and finding one’s voice

DeKALB – Patricia Skarbinski believes “Look Homeward, Angel,” is more than a coming-of-age story – it’s the coming-of-age story of an artist.

Skarbinski will direct a theatrical adaptation of the Thomas Wolfe novel by the same name March 27-April 5. The production is part of the Northern Illinois University School of Theatre and Dance’s spring season.

An authentic American classic, Wolfe’s novel is generally considered to be semi-autobiographical and tells the story of a young man growing up and out of the fictional town of Altamont, easily recognizable as Wolfe’s hometown of Asheville, N.C. 

Wolfe is personified in the character of Eugene Gant, a young dreamer struggling with the conflict between honoring the home and family life where he finds himself stuck, and breaking away to become a writer in the bigger outside world.

Ketti Fring’s adaptation of the work was the winner of the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American play in 1958. It is set in 1916, right before America enters the first World War, but it is an American story that today’s society can still relate to, according to Skarbinski. She relates the themes of the play to what many theater students are trying to pursue in their education.

“Coming to terms with one’s past is essential in order to become more capable of pursuing yourself as an artist,” she said. “This is a great show for college.”

“Look Homeward, Angel” captures the sardonic humor and the grief, both private and universal, about a becoming an adult, she said.

“It’s all about the breaking away that undergraduates experience – about respecting where our parents have brought us to, but at the same time acknowledging that to grow up is to find one’s own voice,” she said.

Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. March 27-29 and April 3-5, with 2 p.m. matinees March 30 and April 5, at Huntley Middle School, 1515 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb. Tickets are $16 for adults, $13 for seniors and $8 for students. Reservations and more information are available at 815-753-1600 or

This production is not affiliated with DeKalb School District 428.

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