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Alaska youth theater takes Aesop's fables to the stage

Performance is culmination of drama workshop for kids

Posted: Thursday, June 21, 2001

Twelve-year-old Tamsen Peeples has spent the last three weeks getting in touch with her villainous side.

Im a thief; I try to steal things. Im mischievous, said Tamsen, who plays the wolf in sheeps clothing in Alaska Theatre of Youths production of Runaway Fable.

The play will open with a 7 p.m. performance on Friday at Gastineau Elementary School in Douglas, and will have two additional performances at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday.

Its a twist on the classic moral lessons of Aesops fables, said director Jeremy Bryan.

Aesops son (Aemon) gets tired of his dad giving him all this crummy advice and decides to run away from home, he said. Along the way, he keeps running into all his fathers fables.

At one point in the play, a hare runs by and asks Aemon - played by Joey Bosworth - who hes betting on in the hares race with the tortoise. Lesser known fables, including one involving a trumpeter and a soldier, crop up as well.

Then theres that wolf in sheeps clothing.

I never got to play anybody evil and villainous, said Tamsen, who has performed in several other plays with the Douglas Youth Drama Association. I like this part because it gives me an opportunity to do another acting experience.

The play is the culmination of three weeks of all-day classes in theater. Seventeen actors ranging in age from 8 to 12 work from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday. The first part of the day is taken up by classes in movement, improvisation, voice and diction. After lunch, the play is rehearsed. Students integrate skills learned in the morning into the production.

Its a lot of fun, said 12-year-old Claire Geldhof, who has been with the youth theater for three years. They teach very fun theater techniques. ... I like the whole production in itself.

ATY is based in Anchorage and puts on a large conservatory there each summer. The Juneau program is one of the smaller, satellite conservatories that the theater also sponsors, Bryan said. Previous plays include Robin Hood, The Jungle Book and the Holocaust-themed I Never Saw Another Butterfly.

Runaway Fable was written by ATYs artistic director, Shane Mitchell, a professional playwright.

We use a lot of outside work as well, but oftentimes we showcase some of his new work, said Bryan, who worked on the premiere of Fable in Anchorage.

Because the play combines so many of Aesops fables, it teaches numerous lessons.

A villain can always justify his tyranny, Bryan said. If you could be satisfied with less, than you wont try for everything and get nothing. Never trust a friend who would desert you in danger.

Despite the many messages, Claire says the play works as a cohesive whole.

You wont understand it if you just take certain scenes out and look at them, she said.

The performances will be highlighted by professional touches, including stage lighting and costumes shipped from Anchorage. Runaway Fable is appropriate for all ages; tickets are $6 at the door.

Its a really nice comedy for the whole family, Tamsen said.

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