Jason Czajka is Charlie Brown. Has been all his life.
As a kid, Czajka's nickname was Charlie Brown because of his likeness to the character, physical and otherwise.
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If you goWhat: Summer Place Theatre's "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"
When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays, June 15-24
Where: Naperville Central High School, 440 W. Aurora Ave., Naperville
Cost: $20 adults; $15 students and seniors; $12 ages 5 to 12
Info: summerplacetheatre.com or (630) 355-7969
Now the North Riverside man will get the chance to embody the character on stage in Summer Place Theatre's production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
"I had a passion for the show rooted in me," he said. "I've always carried this stigma with me that I am Charlie Brown. I've always had a Charlie Brown-ness about me."
The production runs Friday, June 15, to Sunday, June 24, at Naperville Central High School, 440 W. Aurora Ave. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors and $12 for ages 5 to 12. Tickets can be purchased at summerplacetheatre.com or by calling (630) 355-7969.
The production is based on the comic strip "Peanuts" and is a series of vignettes through which audiences come to know the strengths, weaknesses and personalities of each character.
"It's very personal; you get to really feel the cast," Czajka said. "We're going to make the original version appealing to audiences today."
This production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" is the original 1967 version, with music and lyrics by Clark Gesner. It differs from the 1999 revival in that it is more intimate and simple, director Matt Whalen said. In the revival, certain songs were changed, songs were added and some characters were taken out.
Whalen said the simpler music fits the characters better and is a better reflection of them.
"The music is simpler, but I think that there's something to be said about that," he said.
Whalen, of Woodridge, performed his first show at Summer Place Theatre in 1994 when he was 11 years old. Ten years ago, he was Schroeder in the revival version of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
"I'm kind of coming at it with fresh eyes because it is a fairly different show," Whalen said.
Some people can have the wrong impression of community theater, Czajka said.
"People are hesitant when they see community theater," he said. "They think it's a bunch of people who think they can act."
But the only difference, he said, is that it's funded by the community rather than investors and gives actors with great talent the ability to showcase it at a fraction of the cost.
"It's definitely important to keep it alive," Whalen said of community theater. "It's important to know you don't have to go to the city to see good theater. You can see it in your backyard."
Whalen said he has brought more humor and a modern twist to this production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
"I tried to find funny things in each little scene," he said. "The humor of the show definitely comes from the observation of ordinary things."
By that, Whalen means the audience is seeing things through the eyes of children. There is an innocence about the way characters view situations that adults wish they could still have, he said.
Whalen said he also had fun with props, using props that relate to current pop culture, part of the modern twist he has given the play.
Czajka said the play is universally appealing.
"There's an innocence to (Charlie Brown), a vulnerability that I feel everybody can relate to," he said.
Every day is an off day for Charlie Brown, something Czajka said everyone can understand because we all have those bad days.
"Everyone has a little Charlie Brown in them," he said.
But, even though Charlie Brown's life is one long, continuous bad day after the next, there's more to the character.
"Failure kind of defines him, but he continues to hope," Whalen said.
And, of course, there's a moral to the story.
"The moral of the story is things aren't as bad as they seem," Czajka said.
Nothing makes that clearer than the play's last line: "It hasn't been a bad day after all."