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'Treasure Island' performance in Pa. put on by roving children's theatre

February 03, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Fifty-eight local children and two adults put on a rousing performance of "Treasure Island" Saturday in Laird Hall at Wilson College in Chambersburg.

The adults, Susie Natbony and Nathan Emmons, are with Missoula Children's Theater International Tour Project of Missoula, Mont. Founded in 1970 by Jim Caron, the project covers all 50 states and 27 countries.

Emmons and Natbony arrive in a town on Sunday, audition local children on Monday and rehearse with them four hours a day. Two one-hour shows are presented on Saturday and then, after packing up sets, props, scenery and costumes, they're off to the next town on Sunday.

"Twenty-eight teams take six shows on the road," said Emmons, who plays Long John Silver. "There are five 'Treasure Islands,' eight 'Red Riding Hoods' ..."

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He and Natbony (Mother Hawkins) will be doing "Treasure Island" until May.

While it might be easy to become bored with presenting the same show week after week for months, Emmons said that "the kids make it different every week.

"How they bring the characters to life is entirely their creation," he said. "That's the best part."

Daniel Lawson, a 15-year-old Shalom Christian Academy ninth-grader, convincingly portrayed lead character Jim Hawkins and showed excellent command of the large speaking part. Daniel, who was making his sixth stage appearance, said he likes acting because it lets other people experience drama.

After the first performance, Daniel was pleased at how well the play had gone.

"The directors are great," he said.

Chambersburg Area Senior High School sophomore Samantha Jones, 16, played Sing Sing Sam in her second stage appearance. She loves acting, and her strong, excellent singing voice complemented her fine performance.

As Cap'n Patches, Emily Cradduck, a Broadfording Christian Academy 10th-grader, honked an "oogah" horn and sang and danced with the other pirates. The Mercersburg resident said she "loves the performance; it feels like you've accomplished something at the end."

Hugo Sanchez, 13, of Chambersburg, a seventh-grader at Shalom Christian Academy, played Big Ol' Blue in his fourth performance with the Missoula company. He is thinking about acting as a career.

Hugo's sister, Karen Sanchez, 7, a second-grader at King Street Elementary School, was a seagull, but did not like the role as much as she liked being a flower in a Missoula performance last year.

"I don't like 'caw, caw,' " she said.

Her friend Shauniqua Coy, 6, was also a flower last year. She likes being a seagull because "they go 'caw caw' and we can go on stage."

The beautifully-costumed seagulls made intermittent appearances throughout the show. First was Franklin Parks, 9, who flapped gracefully onstage on a cue from Long John Silver.

"I was the bestest one that could 'caw,' " he confided.

A third-grader at Falling Spring Elementary School, Franklin wants to be an actor.

The local actors, actresses and assistant directors were chosen at audition from a pool of 119. At a rehearsal, ruffians, pirates, sisters, seagulls and villagers entered the 500-seat auditorium and sat by groups.

"They are amazing. It's a very focused group," Emmons said.

He gave them a quick lesson on what sets are made of and that they are prone to falling. He demonstrated how sound carries to the audience when someone whispers backstage.

After Saturday's first performance, Emmons was even more impressed with the local talent.

"It was a great show," he said. "This is a very sharp, extremely talented group of kids." So talented, in fact, that Emmons and Natbony gave them some of the lines they usually do themselves. The villagers, for instance, were able to handle lines Natbony usually speaks.

The performance of "Treasure Island" was masterful. The scenery and sound effects - especially the thunder and lightning - were realistic, and scenery and prop changes were handled smoothly. Dancers were graceful and coordinated well with each other.

Emmons and Natbony are excellent at their jobs, and having such talented children and teens to work with made it all easier and more fun.

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