At no point in Maurice Sendak's classic children's book "Where the Wild Things Are" do the Wild Things sing Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild." Tree of Life Theatre Troupe summer camp's upcoming adaptation aims to rectify that.

Director Sierra Field adapted the 40-page book into a 90-minute rock musical herself. To expand the story, assistant director Michele Field looked to other Sendak works for inspiration, including characters from "In the Night Kitchen," "Seven Little Monsters" and others.

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"I sat on my laptop for a month trying to write out the script," Sierra said. "Thankfully, we were able to cast the show before the script was finalized, so I was able to write to the students' personalities. Some were sassy, so I wrote sassy. Others get stage fright, so they have quieter characters."

The campers at Tree of Life theater camp, 17 students between the ages of 6 and 15, spent the past nine days rehearsing and working on the show while participating in theater exercises. Michele said the children have worked hard over the past two weeks.

"It's a lot to do in just nine days. Some of these kids are on stage for the first time," Michele said. "Most professional actors would never dream of doing a whole show in nine days."

Sierra said there are some difficulties in directing a large cast of young actors.

"You need patience and energy. I always want to be enthusiastic, because they're enthusiastic. We need a society that's behind our kids when they want to be creative," Sierra said. "There is a lot of crowd control. We have a lot of group scenes with 17 children on stage at once. It's kind of like corralling cats, but in a good way."

Erin Gounaris, 10, of Sykesville, plays Max — here transformed to Maxine — the lead character who gets sent to her room without supper and travels to the land where the Wild Things are. She said she loves to act, and last year portrayed a Mick Jagger-inspired sailor in their rock-musical production of "Treasure Island."

In a book-accurate wolf pajama set made by her mom, Erin intimidates and leads the Wild Things for the length of the play. She said she can't wait for people to come see the play.

"I like how a bunch of people will come together to see something that little kids are doing," Erin said. "I think that's really neat."

In addition to the expanded storyline, the Tree of Life's production includes the young actors singing a selection of rock songs tailored to the story, including Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation," U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and the Surfaris' "Wipe Out." Michele said they've included classic rock songs in earlier productions to great success.

"The kids love to sing them, but it's the parents who really adore them," Michele said. "They'll come up to us and say, 'Oh my gosh, this is the music I remember from school.'"

Just as the book begins in the real world with images surrounded by white space, before expanding to the edges of the page, the play begins in Max's bedroom with curtains blocking off the edge of the stage. As Max travels to the foreign land, the curtains pull back, the tableau opens up and transforms into the jungle setting of the rest of the play.

On the island, she meets the Wild Things, played by the other 16 members of the theater camp.

Luka Montour, 11, of Frederick, said she loves being a Wild Thing.

"I like it because here you can be as wild as you want, because that's how the play is," Luka said.

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Sierra said she thinks Sendak's original story is a valuable one for children to hear.

"It's a celebration of childhood with that wild, unbridled enthusiasm for life and not wanting to follow the rules," Sierra said. "Eventually, though, we all have to come to the realization that it's not all about me. It's about us. We tried to make that happen throughout the story. It's about what can I contribute, not how can I get what I want. That's an important lesson to learn."

Reach staff writer Jacob deNobel at 410-857-7890 or at jacob.denobel@carrollcountytimes.com.

If You Go

What: "Where the Wild Things Are"

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, July 31, and Friday, Aug. 1; 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2.

Where: Friendship Baptist Church, 1391 Sykesville Road, Sykesville

Cost: $7 general admission

For more information: Visit http://www.treeoflifetroupe.org or call 443-280-9865.

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