Spinning Charlotte's Web at Magnolia Theater

The story of friendship is found in countless books, but this week it's written in a spider's web. Wilber the loveable runt in a litter of pigs and all his friends make their Magnolia stage debut in "Charlotte's Web" at the Magnolia Theater on Thursday, July 20.

Director Jeannie O'Meara-Polich and her cast of 13 have been rehearsing for the past five weeks in anticipation of this summer's performance. O'Meara-Polich, the founder and creator of the Magnolia Theater of School and Drama, praised her production staff as a "fantastic group."

Wilber, played by 10-year-old Ruby Rivamonte, has a passion for life and an innocent oink. His best friend Charlotte, played by Tara Conley, 11, is elegantly intelligent, teaching Wilber words such as "salutations" and "radiant."

Adding to the barnyard friends is the goose, played by 12-year-old Drew Gellos Busse. She is a loud and proud feather fluffer and "certainly-ertly-ertly" has a commanding stage presence.

O'Meara-Polich says she chose the classic story by E.B. White for its simplicity. The Arable's farm, the Zuckerman's barn and the county fair give the feeling of summer by focusing on the outdoors, she added. "I wanted a sunny, summery play."

The kids rehearse every morning, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They begin with warm-ups involving interactive games such as "fruitcake" which teach rhythm, improv skills and concentration. The important thing is to create a safe environment where the kids can be creative, imaginative and spontaneous, O'Meara-Polich explained.

After warm-ups, the group runs through the play. It has been five weeks and at this point in time the children have their lines memorized. They know music cues, light cues and set changes. O'Meara-Polich remains in the background, allowing the kids to work independently. She sits behind a music stand that doubles as a desk for the script, encouraging the kids with nods, smiles and quiet laughter.

"These kids just pop out of their shells," she said. It is amazing how theater has the ability to transform lives and improve the self-confidence in these children, O'Meara-Polich said.

"Charlotte's Web," adapted from the book by E.B. White, is the third play presented this year by the Magnolia Theater. The company opened its doors in August 2005 and, according to O'Meara-Polich, has been well-received by Magnolia's community. The school offers three workshops a year (fall, spring and summer) and welcomes children between the ages of 8 and 12.

O'Meara-Polich and her business partner, assistant director and choreographer Jane Oaksmith, developed this non-profit educational institution with the goal of transforming young lives through music, drama and dance. With two musicals behind them ("Aladdin" in fall 2005 and "Cinderella" in spring 2006), the women chose "Charlotte's Web" as their company's first dramatic offering.

The theater is presenting the play at The Magnolia United Church of Christ. The curtain goes up at 2 p.m.; the running time is one hour. The theater seats 175 comfortably, and tickets can be bought at the door for $10 20 minutes before the play starts. "Charlotte's Web" is appropriate for ages 5 and up; no babes in arms please.

Even if you already know why Mr. Arable wanted to make Wilber "fat and tender," go ahead and say "salutations" to "Charlotte's Web" this weekend at the Magnolia Theater.

Meguire Heston will be a senior next year at Seattle Pacific University. She is studying English literature.[[In-content Ad]]