Kids star in 'Rumpelstiltskin'

July 25, 2003|by ANDREA ROWLAND

Boonsboro teenager Brian Sandell wasn't goofing off when he auditioned Monday for a role in the upcoming production of "Rumpelstiltskin" at The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown. He projected his booming voice across the stage, conveyed a wide range of emotions with expressive body language, and followed directions - performance skills that landed Brian the goofy part of the "Jester" in the classic tale.

"It fits my personality," said Brian, 16, who was among 34 youths who auditioned for - and scored - parts in the Missoula Children's Theatre production of the classic tale.

The Montana-based Missoula Children's Theatre International Tour Project is the largest touring children's theater program in the United States. This year, 27 teams of actors and directors will stage full-scale musicals cast with more than 50,000 children throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Asia. The plays are updated versions of such classic fairy tales and children's stories as "Cinderella," "Alice in Wonderland" and "The Wizard of Oz." Each production includes professionally designed scenery, costumes, props and makeup, as well as sound and lighting equipment, according to the organization's Web site at


"Rumpelstiltskin" will cast its spell at The Maryland Theatre at 3:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, July 26.

First presented by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the early 19th century, "Rumpelstiltskin" is the tale of a young queen who must guess the strange name of a gnome - who earlier saved her life by spinning straw into gold - in order to avoid handing over her first-born child to the gnome as payment for his service.

On Monday, professional actors Scott Davis of California and Jessica Nievinski of Wisconsin led kids ages 5 to 17 through a fun but rigorous audition for the traveling theatre company's musical version of the story, which includes the roles of bees, villagers, gnomes, wizards, knights, king, jester, minstrel, Rumpelstiltskin and the heroine, Clara.

Davis and Nievinski arrive in a town on Sunday, audition local children on Monday and rehearse with them about four hours a day through Friday. 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. Davis and Nievinski next will head to upstate New York, they said.

"People ask how we can stand to do the same show for a year," said Nievinski, 22. "But every show is different because of the kids."

The local cast of characters first learned the importance of commitment - how they would have to attend every rehearsal and both performances for the show to be successful. Nievinski then outlined the "Big Three" basic dramatic principles:

  • Speak in a loud, clear voice.

  • Be expressive with bodies and faces.

  • Listen closely and follow directions.

The auditioners, who formed a wide arc from tallest to shortest, were instructed to speak with emotions ranging from happiness to anger as they introduced themselves and stated their ages. They repeated lines, sang and marched in step with each other. The youngest children played a game to test their ability to follow directions.

Youngster Nate Hamlin was thrilled to get the part of a busy bee.

"This is the first play I've ever been in," said Nate, 8, of Hagerstown.

His older sister, 10-year-old Kimber Hamlin, said her role as a villager was an opportunity to pursue her interest in acting. Wizard Amanda Dorwant, 13, of State Line, Pa., said acting was her favorite hobby. And wizard Trisha Reynolds, 13, of Hagerstown, said she couldn't wait to take the stage.

"I did it last year, and it was really fun," said fellow wizard Erin Gantz, 15, of Hagerstown.

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