EDITOR’S COLUMN | WICA production has a lesson for us all

Once, long ago, there lived a dragon. It was a fearsome beast, full of fire and malicious intent, or so some nearby villagers believed. After all, how could a dragon be anything but a dragon, they reasoned.

It didn’t matter that their conclusions were based on assumptions, that their contempt was delivered prior to investigation and that the demon they imagined and feared did not, in fact, exist. They were convinced of their judgment and took action.

This childhood fable, a century-old story of suspicion and misunderstanding, is coming to Langley this week via Tears of Joy Theatre’s “The Reluctant Dragon” hosted at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. It plays 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 6 at WICA, 565 Camano Ave., Langley.

Cost is $15 for adults, 8 for youths.

Of course the details of the tale change with every telling, but the baseline is the same: a group of people let anger and fear get the best of them and then say or do things they normally wouldn’t. They bend facts to support faulty intuition and use it to justify machinations that, ironically, become evil.

In this case, the villagers hire a famed dragon slayer to remove a problem they are convinced is about to spell their doom. The brave knight, Sir George, sets out only to learn that the monster is not a monster at all. He has no plans to eat or destroy the villagers, in fact, he’s befriended a young boy. The three agree to work together in a humanitarian, albeit unfortunately not-so-honest scheme to convince the villagers their suspicions are for naught.

I’m not a regular theater guy or a big fan of puppet shows, but I’ve always liked the story. I guess I’m attracted to the premise of perceived and imagined evils being replaced by acceptance.

Though this is a children’s tale, people shouldn’t mistake it as such; it wrestles with heavy themes of bullying, discrimination, intolerance, education, understanding and ultimately redemption. These concepts and actions should be introduced to youth, in a constructive way, and “The Reluctant Dragon” is an excellent medium for doing just that. It’s also an excellent reminder for adults.

At different stages of my life I’ve been both the dragon and the villager. I know what it means to jump to conclusions and to be unjustly accused of Machiavellian motives or agendas — tiresome and offensive, but it’s territory that comes with the editor’s chair, particularly during election season. I grumble when it happens, but I also know that I choose every day who I want to be, a person who bends facts to support his intuition or someone like Sir George, a man who looks past the scales for the truth. The choice is always mine to make.

Thanks WICA for the excellent and timely production.