Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

April 9, 2014

Lewis Children’s Center having inaugural production

VANCEBURG — Kelcie Callahan says it’s hard to act like a mean little girl.

She’ll play Gretel in “The (Almost) Totally True Story of Hansel and Gretel” at 6 p.m. Friday at Lewis County High School. The play is the inaugural production of the Lewis County Children’s Center for the Visual and Performing Arts.

Kelcie, of Camp Dix and a third-grader at Lewis County Central Elementary School, is sort of a stage veteran — she was an angel in a church play at Christian Baptist Church. Playing a major role, however, was a smidgen more stressful.

“I was kind of worried how I was gonna memorize all the parts,” she said. Kayla Stafford, who teaches Drama and English at Lewis County High, is the center’s director. She said younger children are creative because they “do their own thing and just express themselves,” but working with them is different.

“The high school students are almost adults, so I feel like you can talk with them like you do adults, whereas children take a little bit more grooming, so to speak — talking them into doing things onstage,” Stafford said. “It’s easier to tell a high school student to turn around, and you tell a little kid 14 times to turn around, do this, do that, and they forget ‘cause they’re not paying complete and utter attention. It’s different in a good way, it’s fun in a good way.”

The Portsmouth, Ohio-based Center for Appalachian Philanthropy (AppaPhil) paid $23,500 last November for the two-story building at the corner of Second and Market streets in Vanceburg. The second floor housed the old Polar Star Masonic Lodge, and the first was home to the Lykins Shoe Store.

AppaPhil received a one-time $8,000 startup grant from the Brushy Fork Institute, of Berea, which funds the center for the first year. Executive director Mandy Hart said the grant is the first step of a plan to open a sustainable center and give the building over when the center is sustainable.

“We’ll help it through any opportunity we can to continue to raise money and get it to a point where its own fees, activities (and) events can keep it through the future,” Hart said.

 Performances will be on the second floor. Joni Pugh of Lewis County CARES said the first floor will feature children’s work as part of the Promising Futures Woodworking and Textile Repurpose and Design classes and have classroom space. Hart said the renovation should be finished by June, and she hopes people will help, among other things, paint the new center.

“We need to build a set of stairs, and we’ll use part of the grant funding to buy some paint and some supplies and shelving,” Hart said. “ … We can’t use the grant for building expenses as far as (mortgage) payments or anything like that.”

Steph DeFerie, a Massachusetts playwright, wrote ‘Almost’. Stafford said DeFerie’s take on Hansel and Gretel is not exactly traditional; the cast includes characters — including Snow White, Brunhilda, the Three Bears and Little Red Riding Hood — from other children’s classics.

Stafford says the traditional Brothers Grimm tale — parents leave Hansel and Gretel in the woods, they fend for themselves, encounter a witch who intends to eat the children but instead dies in her own oven — lasts about 10 minutes in DeFerie’s version.

“In Steph’s version, when they get lost in the forest and they try to get back home, they come across a lot of characters that we all know,” Stafford said. “Snow White, Prince Charming, the Three Little Pigs, the Three Bears, Goldilocks, Little Red Riding Hood … and Hansel and Gretel cause trouble for all the other characters. This version portrays them as little stinkers, shall we say.” Some of the children, like 10-year-old Hunter Collins (Hansel), are performing for the first time. He said his sister, Katelyn Collins, told him there was going to be a performance.

“I really like watching plays and movies on NetFlix,” Hunter said. “I was pretty nervous; I was thinking I wasn’t going to get a part.”

Kelcie also says her Gretel was once a nice girl. “After her mother dies, Gretel turns mean, and she likes to trick people,” she says. “I’m not usually mean … Ms. Stafford kinda told us how to bring out our mean side.”

Will the actors contract stage fright Friday? Hunter hopes not, and Kelcie says she’ll be calm because she’s used to performing with lots of people, but Mylie Vice, who plays Snow White, has a different strategy.

“Everybody makes mistakes,” Mylie says. “Just imagine everybody’s in their underpants. It takes the nervousness away, and the point is just to have fun.”

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