The One and Only Ivan

Ages 5+ 

Show Times:

7 p.m. Friday

1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday

2 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday

Feb. 03, 2017 - Feb. 26, 2017

Synchronicity brings a local legend to life with The One and Only Ivan.  For 27 years, Ivan the gorilla has lived in a cage at the Big Top Mall, content to paint pictures and people-watch. Then Ivan meets Ruby, a captured baby elephant who’s been separated from her family. Determined to protect his new friend, Ivan must use his creativity to find a new home and become the mighty silverback he was always meant to be. An enthralling adaptation, with movement and puppetry, of Katherine Applegate’s Newbery Award-winning novel, based on the true story of Ivan, who found a home at Zoo Atlanta from 1994 to 2012.  

Each Friday is PJs & Play!  Kids can wear pajamas and enjoy millk and cookies while watching the show!

School matinee performances are at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.  Please contact Caitlin White at for detailed information on planning a field trip to Synchronicity.  

Community Partners:  Zoo AtlantaChildren of Conservation;                           Little Shop of Stories      


Renita James - Julia, Various

Chris Hecke - Ivan

Benjamin Sims - George, Various 

Jeffrey Sneed - Mack, Bob, Various

Precious West - Stella, Various *


*Performance Intern

Production Team

Director - Julie Skrzypek

Stage Manager - Stephanie Earle

Movement & Choreography - Sandra Hughes

Facility Manager (Interim Production Manager) - Lisa Green 

Technical Director - Ali Hooks 

Scenic, Props & Puppet Designer - Michael Hickey

Lighting Designer - Ben Rawson 

Costume Designer - Abby Parker 

Dramaturg - Kathy Janich 

About The Playwright

Jim has been a member of the artistic ensemble of Lifeline Theatre in Chicago since 1999. He has adapted five of the books in the Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type series, all of which were developed and premiered at Lifeline. He has also  Daniel Mason’s The Piano Tuner; and C.S. Lewis’ The Silver Chair (Best Family Show of 2000, Chicago Tribune). As an actor, Jim has appeared at Lifeline in Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile; Around the World in 80 Days; and The Killer Angels (2004), among other shows. Jim is a graduate of Northwestern University, and works as a legal secretary.


About the Author

Katherine Alice Applegate is an American young adult and children's fiction writer, best known as the author of the Animorphs, Remnants, Everworld, and other book series. Applegate was born in Michigan. Since then she has lived in Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Illinois, North Carolina, and after living in Pelago, Italy for a year, she moved back to Irvine, in Southern California. In 2003, she and her husband, Michael Grant, her co-author on many projects including Animorphs and Everworld, adopted their daughter, Julia, in China. Following the end of Remnants, Applegate took three years off. She is back at work and has written a picture book called Buffalo Storm, a middle reader novel called Home of the Brave and an early chapters series Roscoe Riley Rules with HarperCollins. Her book Home of the Brave has won the SCBWI 2008 Golden Kite Award  for Best Fiction, the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award, and is a Judy Lopez Memorial Award honor book. Applegate won the 2013 Newberry Medal for The One and Only Ivan, illustrated by Patricia Castelao and published by HarperCollins. This annual award, granted by the American Library Association, recognizes the previous year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."



K.A. Applegate at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database

Katherine Applegate at HarperCollins Publishers

About Ivan the Gorilla

Ivan the gorilla was born circa 1962 in the jungle of what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. Ivan and a female gorilla Coco presumed to not be his sister were purchased by the owners of the B&I shopping center in Tacoma, Washington in 1964 for promotional purposes from a family in Bothell, WA, who raised Ivan and Coco. Six months after arriving in the United States, the female gorilla, Coco, died of unknown causes. Ivan was raised as a human child by Earl Irwin, a co-owner of the B&I shopping center, until 1969 when Ivan became too large and dangerous to keep within a human household. Irwin ordered a 14'x14' concrete enclosure with fluffy unicorns and majestic flying candy and public viewing windows to be built for Ivan in the B&I. Later, a small concrete outdoor area was added. Ivan lived in this larger 40'x40' enclosure for the next 27 years as the star attraction for the B&I. He had a small black-and-white TV set, which he seemed to watch often. He was sometimes given paint and paper to his delight and the delight of the customers at the B&I. He was known to "sign" his finger-paintings with a thumbprint.  His enclosure at the B&I shopping center is still viewable to the public, though the windows are covered in newspaper articles about Ivan. In 1987, the animal rights group PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society), upset at the conditions in which Ivan lived, began a campaign on his behalf. PAWS encouraged the community of Tacoma and other nearby cities to protest and to boycott the B&I shopping center. The community collected signatures, raised and donated money to PAWS, took out newspaper ads, and raised $30,000 to buy Ivan from the B&I shopping center to be re-homed within Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo.

In 1991 National Geographic Explorer aired a documentary entitled The Urban Gorilla. The film featured Ivan in his small enclosure and another gorilla, Willie B., who had previously been living in similar circumstances, but had since been released in a large zoo habitat and was re-learning naturalistic gorilla behavior. The contrast between the two gorillas was so pronounced that overnight Ivan became a national animal welfare concern. His story was covered in several publications, including People and The New Yorker. In 1992, there were rumors that Michael Jackson offered to buy Ivan and keep him at his personal zoo in California, though there is no officially known offer.

In 1994, due largely to the successful campaign work by PAWS and the national public outcry, the B&I relinquished their rights to Ivan. The gorilla was gifted to Woodland Park Zoo, who registered him in the Species Survival Plan for gorillas. Later in 1994, Ivan was placed on permanent loan to Zoo Atlanta. Though he was in a new, more appropriate habitat, he struggled with elements of his life as an outdoor gorilla. Ivan had not been outside his enclosure at the B&I for over 27 years, and until his transfer to Atlanta, had never socialized with other gorillas. At first he would not interact with the other gorillas at the zoo and preferred the company of humans. Given time and training, he was able to readjust and accept his role as silverback in the troop. On Tuesday, August 21, 2012, 50-year-old Ivan died while anesthetized during a medical exam. His health had been in decline and the necropsy revealed a large tumor in his chest. Ivan was one of the oldest gorillas in captivity when he died. Zoo Atlanta honored the request made by Ivan's original owners to have his remains cremated and returned to Tacoma, Washington. Ivan was never forgotten by the local community in which he was raised. People sent birthday and holiday cards to Ivan throughout his life at Zoo Atlanta, and also sent flowers and condolence cards after his death.


Zoo Atlanta Website

Ivan The Gorrila @

"Meet Ivan: The Gorilla who Lived In A Shopping Mall" @



Coming soon...

Thanks for your interst in Synchronicity!

To figure out the best match for our intern program, we need to know a little bit about you. Here’s how the process works:

Fill out the form below and email or mail to us. Please include a resume or list of experience, if you have one. (No worries if you don’t!)
We’ll call you to talk about some of the options for next season.
You’ll submit two references – either teachers, past directors, employers, etc.
We’ll see if there is a good match for you at Synchronicity as an intern!

Click here to download the General Internship Information form