What: In conjunction with Orphan Awareness Month, all for One productions presents “The Family Nobody Wanted,” a comedy based on the true story of a couple who, in the 1940s, adopted 12 children of various ethnic backgrounds and nationalities.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Nov. 8-9; and 2:30 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 10.
Where: Auditorium of the Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza
Cost: $18, adults; $15, ages 60 and older; and $10, students. For information or to reserve tickets, call 1-260-622-4610 or go to www.allforonefw.word press.com.
Note: Outreach efforts by all for One productions include helping Children's Lantern, a ministry to children — especially those in foster care.
“Since kids often arrive in foster care with nothing but the clothes on their backs, Children's Lantern provides bags of hygiene essentials, such as toothpaste, toothbrush, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, and hairbrush or comb,” explains Lauren Nichols, all for One's artistic director. “They also supply a pack of diapers and wipes for babies going into foster care.”
Audience members are encouraged to bring those items to shows so they can be collected and donated to Children's Lantern ( www.ChildrensLantern.org).
Katerine “Katty” Ellis makes her stage debut Friday, portraying the adopted daughter of Helen Doss in the three-act play “The Family Nobody Wanted.”
Based on Doss' 1954 memoir of the same name, the play chronicles the adventures of Helen and her minister husband, Carl, who adopted 12 children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and nationalities.
Presented by all for One productions, the gentle comedy offers audiences a glimpse into the everyday routine of a family that has to reserve time to use the bathroom. In the lead role is Lisa Ellis, who adopted Katty from Guatemala.
“Terry (her husband) and I have two adopted daughters, Katerine and Jamaica,” explains Ellis, who also has three biological daughters. “We adopted her when she was just 5 months. For us, adoption was a calling — the strongest calling I've ever had — (and) we knew we wanted to adopt internationally.”
Carl and Helen Doss were living in California in the early 1940s when they learned they would be unable to have children of their own. Their first attempts at adoption were unsuccessful, so they enrolled in college — Helen to study writing and literature, Carl to prepare for the ministry.
One final attempt at an adoption resulted, surprisingly, in a blue-eyed baby boy.
“Donny came through a normal adoption, which was really a fluke,” explains Lauren Nichols, all for One's (afO) artistic director and director/production designer for “The Family Nobody Wanted.” “Carl was in seminary and didn't make enough money for the couple to be considered good candidates for adoption.”
Concerned Donny would be a lonely only child, the couple sought to adopt another child, only to be rejected again for financial reasons.
“Somehow the 'gray market' (non-agency adoptions) came to the Doss' attention,” says Nichols. “Soon, orphanages were contacting them. In the wake of World War II, there was an international baby boom. Many war orphans overseas were in need of parents.”
Three years after Donny's adoption, two little girls of mixed ancestry joined the family, followed by nine more children of Chinese, Japanese, Malayan, Spanish, French, Filipino, Korean, Burmese and American Indian descent. Often classified as “unadoptable,” these children found love and acceptance in the Doss family.
“(Helen) was determined to be a mother,” Ellis observes, and “... to adopt, love and raise these children in a world that was sometimes hostile. I know she had the same feelings I've had when someone placed a child in her arms. That child was then hers — for life. Our children are ours, no matter what. We don't even think of them as adopted.”
“Helen, always looking for ways to supplement the family income, wrote magazine articles,” explains Nichols. “'Our International Family,' written for the August 1949 Reader's Digest, garnered so much domestic and international attention that she was persuaded to tell the rest of the story.”
Magazines and newspapers related the story of this unusual family, often described as a “miniature United Nations.” Radio and television appearances followed, and, in 1954, Helen Doss penned her memoir. The book was serialized, discussed in major book clubs and made into a movie starring Shirley Jones.
“The play was published in 1957,” says Nichols, and “adapted by Christopher Sergel — a prolific playwright who appears to have specialized in adaptations, including 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'”
Nichols saw the play in a catalog and was intrigued. It later was scheduled for performance this season.
“We agreed that it had all the elements of a play afO would produce,” Nichols explains. “AfO never chooses a play as mere entertainment. Everything we produce is chosen for being values-rich and thought-provoking, as well as being well-written and consistent with a Judeo-Christian worldview.”
The play opens with Helen awaiting yet another interview with a magazine writer who is surprised by how “normal” the Doss home looks, while quizzing her about the difficulty of preparing the children's differing ethnic foods — “chili beans and tamales,” ... “rice and chop suey”— only to learn their favorite foods are distinctly American: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato chips and Coca-Cola.
The magazine's photographer complains the children “don't look foreign enough” and wants them to pose at the dinner table eating suki yaki with chopsticks and wearing feathered headdresses and turbans.
“The play is very funny, fast-paced and well-constructed,” says Nichols, who compares it to the venerable “You Can't Take it With You.” “It's also a lovely play about what makes a family, and it's a strong statement about love and loyalty and courage.”
“I think it's ironic that it's titled 'The Family Nobody Wanted,'” adds Ellis. “Once this happy chaotic family is portrayed on stage, everyone would want to be included. You stop thinking about skin color. The message is everlasting: Once you get to know a person, the surface doesn't matter any more.”