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Friendship and fun fill Thumbelina' rehearsals


May 04, 2001|By ANTHONY LONGORIA, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — This weekend more than 50 local youngsters are inviting local audiences into the land of the little people to see the whimsical tale of "Thumbelina" unfold on the Palmer Performing Arts Center stage.

For these local children, ages 4-17 and from nearly every city in the Valley, the production is a culmination of more than two months of rehearsing, camaraderie and laughter.

And there is plenty of laughter on the set, as evidenced in the children's resounding laughter after rehearsal Tuesday night while answering questions about their experiences.

When asked if their experience was fun, the cast members sang a resounding "YES!"

And how many friends had they made?

"Everybody!" said more than the majority of the cast.

"It's been really fun and the directors are really nice," said Courtney Stewart, 9.

"It wasn't like other things I've done here (at Palmer)," said Kathleen Kelley, 12.

"This was my first speaking role and I was surprised at how easy it was to learn my lines," said Elizabeth Walker, 14, who conceded to being a little nervous about being on stage.


The rehearsal process hasn't gone on without glitches, but those are to be expected (and can make the best of memories).

Rachel Serino spoke of one of those bursting laughs that can happen on stage, complete with snorting and missed cues, usually at the end of a long rehearsal.

The cast laughed in retrospect.

The preparation for their whimsical characters was even researched meticulously by some, including Richard Wood, 10, who plays the Toady Son.

"I researched toads and I watched ‘The Beverly Hillbillies,'" Wood said, sampling the Southern accent he uses in the play.

In the title role, Katie Schreck, 10, seems perfect as the tiny heroine, her small stature nearly the inspiration for Hans Christian Anderson's original tale.

"I really like the part because it fits me," Schreck said.

Based on her experience in this production, Schreck said she wants to pursue acting when she's older.

Said Deborah Schreck, Katie's mother: "It's been a lot of fun. I had both my kids here."

Daughter Karren is in the ensemble.

"They all helped each other. That's what I've been really impressed with," Deborah Schreck said of the camaraderie in the cast.

"You want to teach them to work as a team," said director Harriet Fasolo of her objectives for the production.

Fasolo had previously only directed adults, but said she enjoyed getting the children to portray animals and other various characters in the play.

She's learned from her experience.

"You have to be really, really patient," Fasolo said. "You have to entertain them, but the kids are wonderful."

Producer and stage manager Rosemarie Wood echoed Fasolo's sentiments, adding inspiring the children and encouraging them to enjoy theatre arts are the best rewards from their work.

Sadly, this is Wood's last production with the North County Coalition for the Arts, which is sponsoring the production.

Wood is responsible for such productions as "Kiss Me Kate," "Annie," "Oliver," "The Merchant of Venice," and "The Odd Couple" to name a few of the works she's directed or produced (mostly both).

When asked why she's leaving, Wood began, "I've been with NOCCA for four seasons …"

But before she could finish her sentence, her son Bryan interrupted her answer, wanting her attention.

After a brief pause and a smile at her son, Wood said, "That's the reason why."

Saying she wants to spend more time with her family, Wood is retiring from directing and producing.

"I'm a mother first and foremost and I made a decision that both my boys need me in the evenings," Wood said.

It's a decision she feels perfectly comfortable making, saying that NOCCA has built a base of talented and able artists who can keep providing productions for the area.

"It's been a wonderful experience for me and I'll miss it," Wood said.

Wood plans to pursue a teaching credential and would like to teach theater arts.

NOCCA's production of "Thumbelina" will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at Palmer. Tickets are $5 and may be purchased at Lou Lange's Music Bar in Brawley, Clark Baker Music in El Centro or the theater box office prior to performance.

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