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Ice House has big role in life of community

December 05, 2004|by TRISH RUDDER

trishr@herald-mail.com

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.VA. - The Ice House production of "Annie" is what community theater is all about.

Beth and Tom Brooks, directors of the play, have been instrumental in bringing community members in to perform in the Ice House Theater Projects in Berkeley Springs.

Tom Brooks and his wife have acting backgrounds. He received a master's degree in acting from the University of Alabama and spent more than 20 years in little theater production as an actor and director. He also performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Beth and Tom Brooks have been in Berkeley Springs for more than five years. They grew up in Northern Virginia and moved back to the area from Georgia.

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Tom Brooks became involved in the Ice House in the 2000 production of "A Christmas Carol," when he played Scrooge.

Brooks also provides acting workshops at the Ice House. Since he became chairman of the Morgan Arts Council's theater committee, the Ice House puts on four productions a year instead of two.

The Morgan Arts Council's goal is to provide a "varied season with both well-known and lesser-known plays, and to offer a broad range of experience levels from none to professional," he said.

Brooks said he likes the community involvement in the Ice House. Even with renovations going on, the second floor theater was used for "Annie" rehearsals. Future productions will be performed there.

"The advantage is a permanent theater upstairs," he said.

Choosing a cast, building a set and rehearsing is not a quick process. Auditions for "Annie," the hit Broadway musical based on the comic strip of the same name, started in September and cast members have been rehearsing for two months.

The cast has about 43 characters, including an alternate for the four orphans of Annie, Molly, Pepper and Tessie, Brooks said.

"Thirty-three little girls showed up to audition for the orphan roles," he said.

Beth Brooks designed the set and also plays the role of Mrs. Hannigan, the villainess who runs the orphanage. She also helped with the choreography.

Other family members also play parts in "Annie." The Brooks' son, Tim, operates the set lighting and their dog, Charlie, plays the part of Annie's dog, Sandy.

The play opened Friday night with more than 60 people attending, stage manager Angela Petry said.

"The good crowd was very enthusiastic and the performance was well-received," she said.

Both cast members and parents had great praise for the directors. The role of the apple seller is played by 12-year-old Zachary Ziler. Ziler said he got the acting bug in last year's production of "The Wiz."

"It's a lot of fun doing this play - it's comical," he said. Ziler said he really likes working with Brooks.

Cast member Abbie Brown has lived in Berkeley Springs since 1999 and has performed in all of the Ice House productions "except one," she said. She switches costumes four times in "Annie," playing a dog catcher, a maid, a New Yorker and a judge.

Brown said she has taken acting classes from Tom Brooks and has learned much.

Bibi Hahn, the mother of an orphan played by Willa Hahn, said there are many new young actors in "Annie."

This is the third Ice House production Beth and Tom Brooks have directed together. They also directed "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "Baby with the Bath Water."

The next Ice House Theater Project will be "Romeo and Juliet," which has nine teen male and seven adult male roles. There is the teen role of Juliet and three adult female roles to fill, Brooks said. Auditions will be Jan. 25 through 27. The April production will have nine performances, he said.

J.W. Rone, director of the Ice House, will direct a summer 2005 show that has not yet been determined. In fall 2005, the musical "P.T. Barnum" is planned and will be directed by Martha Lynch.

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