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Children express desire to act

March 12, 2006|By BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa.

Venus fly traps, ducks, frogs, flamingos, knights and princesses cavorted across the stage in Wilson College's Laird Hall Saturday, to the delight of family and friends.

With the help of two professionals from the Missoula Children's Theatre, 58 local children put on two performances of "The Frog Prince." Deep in the royal swamp, the selfish Princess Prim promises to befriend a lonely Frog after he retrieves her golden ball from a well, then resorts to trickery in an attempt to break her promise.

Leah Houser, 13, wore a tiara, a blue gown and white sneakers to portray Princess Prim in the high-energy play.

Her good diction and ability to project her voice added depth to her character. This was her eighth experience with the Missoula Theatre.

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Her sisters, Princess Proper and Princess Peppy, were played by Olivia Peck, 12, and Skyler Marie Allen, 9.

Before their entrance, the six Ducks yelled "QUACK!" from offstage and waddled onto the stage to laughter from the audience.

Their onstage quack/honk routine provoked more laughter. Also receiving enthusiastic audience reaction were the Flamingoes in their hot pink costumes and the Venus Fly Traps in imaginative red, green and yellow trappings.

David Forbes, 12, displayed considerable singing and acting talent as the Castle Frog/Prince. A Corpus Christi student from Fayetteville, Pa., David had previously appeared in a school play. He said his first experience with the Missoula group was "really fun. There are a whole bunch of jokes in the play."

He said it took him about three days to learn all his lines. Aubrey Short and Lauren Gyurisin, both 15 and portraying knights, have appeared in several Missoula productions and said they like the directors.

Lauren's brother, Michael, 11, said he was having a lot of fun playing a Swamp Thing.

Skyler, a student at Greencastle Elementary School, has been in 11 plays, three of them with Missoula. Princess Peppy is the biggest role she has had, she said.

Olivia, a student at James Buchanan Middle School and a veteran of three Missoula plays, said Princess Proper is her biggest role to date and that she was having a good experience except that "it's hard to remember the lines."

David Clark, 18, a student at Cumberland Valley School of Music, provided live piano music for the show. He had to learn 22 songs; Thursday evening he was practicing instead of eating during the dinner break.

The 36-year-old Missoula Children's Theatre, based in Montana, sends out teams of professionals with the costumes, scripts and sets for a play.

Maryann Carlson of Massachusetts and Kelley Davis of Kansas are on the road 10 months of the year. They audition the children on Monday, start rehearsals immediately, and put on the play twice on Saturday.

Carlson played three parts in "The Frog Prince," while Davis served as director.

"These kids are very expressive," Carlson said. Although Thursday was the first day that actors were not using the scripts, "they barely called for a line," she said.

Davis agreed. "They're a good bunch of kids. They're full of energy and great ideas. They're willing to try anything."

She and Carlson are in a different town every week, she said, driving to a new town each Sunday. They were recently in New Jersey, and after next week's break will go to Florida.

The children were obviously well-instructed during the week of rehearsals.

At one point in Thursday's rehearsal, Carlson told the ducks that when they quack to "make sure the deaf grandmas in the back row can hear you."

The Missoula Children's Theatre residency in Chambersburg is presented by the Council for the Arts with support from the Rotary Club of Chambersburg and Penn National Resort Community.

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