Camille Gavin

Wednesday, Jul 16 2008 01:11 PM

Camille Gavin: 'Charlotte's Web' gives child performers turn in the spotlight

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    Adam Jackson, left, appears as Wilbur the pig, and Mike Bedard plays Templeton the rat. (Photo courtesy of Althea Williams)

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    In BCT's play based on the children's book "Charlotte's Web," Elisabeth Sampson, left, as Fern, reads to Wilbur the pig, played by Adam Jackson. (Photo courtesy of Althea Williams)

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By Camille Gavin

“Charlotte’s Web,” the Youth Theatre production that opens Friday at Bakersfield Community Theatre, is an adaptation of a book destined to become a classic almost from the time it was first published in 1952. Since then it has been embraced by several generations of readers.

On the surface it’s a charming tale, simply told. Yet it’s much more than that. In one sense “Charlotte’s Web” is animal fable; in another it’s a lesson in humanity and that’s what makes it timeless.

Related Info

GO & DO

WHAT:Youth Theatre production of “Charlotte’s Web”

WHEN:7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE:Bakersfield Community Theatre, 2400 S. Chester Ave.

COST:Adults $7; children, $5

DETAILS:Call 834-8114

“To children it’s a story about a pig and a spider and their friendship,” said Tim Fromm, the director. “On a bigger scale it is the story of survival, cooperation and maturing.”

Fromm, a special education teacher at Franklin School, is an experienced actor in his own right and once had a role in a National Geographic documentary. But I’ll tell you more about that in next week’s column when I begin a series of profiles about local actors.

Meanwhile, back to “Charlotte’s Web.” I asked Fromm why he’s willing to spend a good part of his summer vacation putting together a show that’s filled mainly with actors younger than 18. Turns out it has a lot to do with their commitment.

“Kids learn their lines really fast and they soak up every word,” he said, adding, hypothetically, “That little girl may have only one line, maybe only three words, but she knows every one of them. And it’s funny, but they learn other people’s lines too. You can see them mouthing the words at rehearsals.”

Another reason Fromm likes doing theater with young people is the copious number that turn up for auditions, which isn’t always the case for adult shows.

“With kids it’s nice because they usually come with a little brother or sister that we can cast as a gosling or a lamb or something like that. We get a lot of newbies that way,” he said. “For ‘Charlotte’s Web’ we had over 50 at auditions and I think we’ve pared it down to about 30.”

The cast stars Simone Wheat as Charlotte; Adam Jackson as Wilbur the pig, and Mike Bedard as Templeton the rat. Fern, the little girl who saves Wilbur from her father’s ax, is played by Elisabeth Sampson. Mark Tarango and Terri Gann play the Zuckermans, owners of the farm where Charlotte spins her web, and John Giertz and Deanna Rodgers portray Fern’s parents.

Other performers include Andrew Aleman, Sam Sampson, Summer Stone, Alex Olcott, Autumn Garcia, Taylor Santos, Laura Russinksy and Maya Bonales.

Fromm assures me that audiences will enjoy cool air inside the theater, thanks to a portable air conditioner that will be used during performances. Shows continue next weekend, July 25 to 27.

OUTSIDERS' ART EXHIBIT

A reception opening an exhibit titled “Outside In 3” will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the Reider Gallery at the Arts Council of Kern, 2000 K St., suite 110. Admission is free.

The term “outside art” refers to art created by people who do their work outside the confines of traditional schools and academies. In this instance, the 16 artists whose work is being shown took part in a Visual Art Workshop, developed three years ago by the Arts Council and Kern Regional Center.

For details, call 324-9000.

'RABBIT HOLE’ AUDITIONS

Director Kamala Kruszka will hold auditions for “Rabbit Hole” from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at The Empty Space, 706 Oak St.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire calls for two males, one in his early 40s, the other in his late teens, and two females, one in her early 30s, the other in her 50s or 60s.

Those who audition should be prepared to read from the script. For more information, call 858-0832.

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