Size doesn’t matter in weekend production of Stuart Little
Daily News Staff Reporter
If E.B. White’s classic story of Stuart Little is about little people doing big things then it’s only fitting this weekend’s performance at the Pavilion Theatre is put on by aspiring young thespians.
In fact, Joseph Robinette’s adaptation of The Adventures of Stuart Little is the first full production by Western Canada Theatre’s After-school Production Course; with 12 youth aged 10 to 15 responsible for everything from set design to embodying all the characters.
“The kids are amazing,” said instructor Terri Runnalls. “This gives them the opportunity to see what it’s like to a be a part of a production.”
Western Canada has run summer and spring break courses before, but opted to expand to an after-school introductory course in September, with the winter production class a logical extension of that, said Runnalls.
The students were taught the fundamentals of theatre in the fall, she said. The production class gives them the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned while mounting a play for a live audience.
Runnalls has met with the students once a week since January in anticipation of this weekend’s performances. Together they workshopped the script, put on auditions, and fleshed out each character.
Given that children put on the entire production, Runnalls had to keep the set basic, using lettered boxes that spell out Stuart Little for each and every set.
“You won’t see the same production value (of WCT). But there’s light, sound, costumes and kids who have worked really hard,” she said.
Written in 1945, The Adventures of Stuart Little is White’s first book for children. Episodic in nature, the story follows Stuart from his birth to a human family in New York City through the various adventures he has with the family cat, a friendly bird and a boat race in Central Park.
Narrating Stuart’s story, and the play, is Kora Vanderlip, 14. Fortunately she’s read the book and watched the 1999 film adaptation, so the material is familiar.
Her job is to move the story along and set scenes. She is also a friend of sorts to Stuart, talking him through his travels.
“I’m an overseer in a way,” said Kora.
With the script already laid out by Robinette, the hardest part of the production was turning the words into characters. She said Runnalls did a good job helping the students figure out who they had to be on stage.
And many of the performers play multiple characters, quickly changing costumes between scenes. Kora said this gets a little hectic at times, but the cast is professional.
“There’s lots of box changes. That’s how we change scenes. I know Terri had to co-ordinate that in the beginning. And we had to figure that out while remembering lines and everything,” she said.
She learned her lines by reading them out loud over and over again. Doing this not only helped Kora remember what she has to say, but figure out what each line means.
“It’s not just words on paper,” she said.
Runnalls picked Stuart Little because she believed the students could pull it off. And, given the size of the class and the mix of boys and girls, it seemed an ideal project.
“It’s going really well,” she said.
Kora likes the story’s overall theme. Stuart is little, he’s mouse who’s smaller than everyone else. But he has the ambition to do things and succeeds despite his size, much like the students in her production class, she said.
“It’s not about size. It’s not about who can beat the other person. It’s about what you do,” said Kora.
Admission is by donation to the Henry Vandenberghe Memorial Fund, which provides scholarships and bursaries to children and youth who are passionate about the performing arts.
For more on WCT’s Stage One classes head online to www.wctlive.ca.
WHAT: The Adventures of Stuart Little
WHEN: Friday night at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m.
WHERE: Pavilion Theatre
TICKETS: Admission is by donation