Charlotte’s Web is one of those children’s stories that just doesn’t fade in popularity, so it was a natural choice for Tree House Youth Theatre to stage as holiday season begins.
The production runs Dec. 1st-3rd at the Scott Block Theatre. Evening shows run at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 1st-2nd with a matinee show set for Dec. 3rd.
Nicole Leal, artistic director for Tree House, said heading into this year brought some kids who were brand new to the organization. It may mean there was limited experience for stagework going into the project, but the young actors have stepped up to the task – bringing their strong senses of creativity and love for the theatre to the production.
“It’s what I’d like to bring back into theatre — all of these famous stories that people still love and remember – and give these kids a great experience.”
First off, she encouraged each one in the cast to really ask themselves what they wanted as their character.
“You’re Charlotte – what is it that you want? What does this story mean to you? Why is it so important to you that you are friends with Wilbur?”
Those kinds of questions really got the kids thinking about what they wanted to do with their respective parts in the play. From there, it was a process of melding the sentiments of a classic story with a young generation’s ideas of what they wanted to bring to the story, too.
“These are the things I try to pull out of them, and to help them relate more to who they are portraying onstage,” she said.
“I also remind them that they are telling the story – they get to tell it the way that they want to tell it – from their perspective.”
Charlotte’s Web was written by American author E. B. White, and it was published in the fall of 1952.
The novel tells the story of a pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte writes messages praising Wilbur in her web in order to persuade the farmer to let him live, according to Wikipedia.
“The book is considered a classic of children’s literature, enjoyable to adults as well as children. In 2000, Publishers Weekly listed the book as the best-selling children’s paperback of all time.”
Leal took over leadership of Tree House Youth Theatre earlier this year.
She’s a familiar name to many in the local theatre community, came onboard in recent months, and is excited about the adventures and challenges that await as the months unfold.
The program welcomes youth ages nine through to 17. “There are two programs – nine to 11 and then 12 to 17,” she said.
Leal is a talented actor in her own right, having completed theatre studies at Red Deer College back in 2013. She was featured in several shows, including The King is the King, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Peter Pan.
Tree House Youth Theatre was created in 1988 and was the brainchild of Richard O’Brien who was head of the Theatre Arts Program at Red Deer College. Tree House Productions ran during the College off-season using RDC theatre staff and students to support most elements of the production.
When O’Brien left both Red Deer College and Tree House, the organization moved into a new partnership; this time with Central Alberta Theatre (CAT). CAT continued to provide guest artists for several years, providing support and encouragement to the young performers.
With the hiring of Matt Gould in 2005, Tree House entered a new era of exploration and creation, building a love of the theatre arts in the youth of Central Alberta. In 2009, Gould was instrumental in securing a rehearsal and performance space in the Scott Block downtown.
Over Gould’s years as artistic director he produced, directed (and in some cases wrote) over one dozen productions including, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2005), Fiddler on the Roof Jr. (2007), The Wind in the Willows (2009), Disney’s Mulan Jr. (2010), Sleeping Beauty (2012), and Red Deer River Stories (2013) among others.
Tickets are $10 and are available by visiting www.treehouseyouththeatre.ca or at the door.