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11:51 PM Mon, Dec. 10th

‘Hannah’s Heart’ shows community’s heart for others

Production is being viewed as a Christmas tradition

Cover of “Hannah’s Heart” the book. LEFT: Lily Eckles, a Yavapai College theater major who was cast as Hannah for the debut stage performance. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Cover of “Hannah’s Heart” the book. LEFT: Lily Eckles, a Yavapai College theater major who was cast as Hannah for the debut stage performance. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

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Lily Eckles, left, a Yavapai College theater major, sits with Diane Iverson, author of “Hannah’s Heart.” (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

“Hannah’s Heart” is a timeless story of the contagious sparkle ignited by one selfless, giving heart.

In Prescott, the setting for the fictional, Depression-era book, “Hannah’s Heart,” penned and illustrated by Diane Iverson, a retired founder and special projects director for the Coalition for Compassion and Justice, this tale is awakening hearts to the power of giving in this community.

From crafters to quilters, screenplay writers to college actresses, “Hannah’s Heart” has tapped into the talents of many as a means to give back to local charities — CCJ and the Prescott Unified School District Family Resource Center.

Iverson’s 2017 book was adapted this year into a screenplay and stage production written and directed by Melanie Ewbank; Iverson, too, changed the front cover to depict one of Hannah’s hearts. The original cover was of Hannah Grace Meadows, the main character.

The theatrical debut of the screenplay will be at Prescott High School’s Ruth Street Theater beginning on Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 p.m. with two succeeding performances on Saturday, Dec. 1 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 2 at 3 p.m.

Outside the theater doors, to be open an hour before each show, guests will be able to buy an assortment of handmade crafts from local artisans, including hearts of various sizes to mimic the “magical” hearts in the story, at “Hannah’s Marketplace.” The story and play also inspired a new quintet of quilters, Kwazy Kwquilters, to piece and stitch a 36-block “heart” themed, queen-sized quilt and matching pillows as a raffle prize. Raffle tickets will be sold through the agencies and at the shows — 1 for $5, three for $10 and 7 for $20. The winning ticket will be picked at the finale matinee show.

All play attenders are also asked to show their heart for the less fortunate by bringing a new, unwrapped gift to be distributed to low-income children. The gifts will all be placed in the bed of “Papa’s vintage truck to be parked outside the theater for the three performances.

One of those whose heart has been touched by “Hannah’s Heart” is the Yavapai College student selected to perform as Hannah in the stage performance Iverson and Ewbank hope is such a hit that it becomes a Prescott Christmas tradition.

A theater major, Lily Eckles was contacted by Ewbanks who had directed her in two other local performances, including “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “A Comedy of Errors” at the Prescott Center for the Arts. “When she read the script,” Eckles said, “I absolutely fell in love with it.”

“I cried all the way through,” said Eckles who is eager to now read the book that inspired the play.

Though in real life she is twice Hannah’s age, Eckles’ youthful demeanor has long earned her younger, or child, roles, she said. In this version of “Hannah’s Heart,” Eckles has long brunette hair she wears in braids – a bit different appearance from the short, curly-haired Hannah Meadows character in the book.

Sitting in Iverson’s living room in furniture appropriate for the book’s 1935 era, Eckles said what she finds most appealing about her character is that “she has the biggest heart.”

The story plot revolves around Hannah’s desire to play “Santa” for her siblings after her ranch hand father is injured and the family finds themselves bartering their farm produce and chickens for essentials. She knows her siblings’ vison of Christmas dolls, teddy bears and action figures under the Christmas tree will not be possible unless she finds a way to buy them. So she opts to make handmade heart decorations to sell at the theater. Her stitches and donated fabrics are basic, yet they each bear some Christmas magic thanks to a “blessing” she is advised to give them all.

In the end, Hannah, her family, their close friends, not to mention the readers of her story, are infused with the true spirit of Christmas — all about the gift of giving and sharing with others.

“At a time when people had nothing, she (Hannah) gave everything she could,” Eckles said.

She intends to do likewise with her depiction of the very special little girl.

A stage actor since she was in kindergarten, Eckles said what she loves most about theater is the ability to translate her talents so they “give back to the community.”

She certainly has earned Iverson’s confidence.

“I think Lily is going to be fantastic,” Iverson said, crediting Ewbanks creativity and imagination with bringing her story to life.

“I really hope what the audience gets out of it is that the holidays are not about getting things,” Eckles said. “They are about putting others before yourself.”

TICKET INFORMATION

Tickets for the play can be purchased at Jay’s Bird Barn in Prescott or online at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3335519.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors, $10 for students and children under 5 with adult are free.

THE CAST

The Present:

Hannah Meadows . . . . . . . . . . . Jean Lippincott

Julie . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Natalie Geraghty

The Past:

Young Hannah Meadows . . . . . . Lily Eckles

Sarah Meadows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Cathleen Cunningham

James Meadows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ered Matthew

Mr. Gomez . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Alex Gabeldon

Mrs. Sims . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Shari Graham

Wesley Meadows . . . . . . . . . . . . . Levi Korell

Elizabeth Meadows . . . . . . . . . . . Riley Blue Kenoyer

Mattie Meadows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jamie Mumford

Jesse Meadows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Ithiel Szeto

Rancher #1, Man #1 . . . . . . . . . . . Randy Halgunseth

Rancher #2, Mr. Goldstein . . . . . Ron Bowen

Mrs. Atherton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Lyssa Romaine

Mrs. Roberts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Christine Fite

Mrs. Simpson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Sophia Wauters

Woman #1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marti Huzarski

Woman #2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mia Sapecky