The ins and outs of ‘Charlotte’s Web’

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Freshman Katie Zook as Fern talks with junior Stephen Loewen, who played Wilbur the pig (photo provided by www.facebook.com)
Freshman Katie Zook as Fern talks with junior Stephen Loewen, who played Wilbur the pig (photo provided by www.facebook.com)
By Melisa Peebles Children’s literature came to life on March 25, 26 and 27 in the Everest-Rohrer Auditorium with the production of “Charlotte’s Web.” The show featured a plethora of colorful characters, including Wilbur, a young pig, Fern, a girl who can converse with animals, and Charlotte, the selfless spider who demonstrates Christ-like love. This performance was directed by Sara Farren, artistic director at Clay Church. “She directs a show a year at Bethel,” said freshman Andrea DeLonis. “She’s absolutely fantastic, a phenomenal director. I’ve never grown so much with one director in such a short amount of time.” Sophomore Rachel Wilkins explained the elements involved in this production, which she said consisted of “set design, lighting design, sound design, costumes, make up, the fly crew, props, the people who put the programs together, the ushers, the ticket office, the stage managers, the director and the actors.” Many students wondered how costumes and make-up would be handled for this show. They didn’t know if masks and full animal costumes would be used. The decision was made to keep the animals looking as human as possible, just giving the actors the nose of whichever animal they portrayed. Sophomore Barbara Brutt explained the reason for that decision. “We aren’t animals so they wanted to go for something that looked a bit more natural,” said Brutt. DeLonis thought the costuming decision was a good one. “I liked the humanistic concept we used for the costumes,” she said. “We didn’t look like school mascots. But it was suggestive of how animals could embody human traits.” Another aspect of this performance, which raised excitement, was the fly system used to suspend sophomore Sabrina Hallock, playing Charlotte, in the air as she climbed up and down her web. “The company that crafted this system is named Foy,” said DeLonis. “They came in the Thursday before Tech Week and taught our students how to run it.” Sophomore Nathan Jackson and seniors Raymond Owens and Jon Goodson ran the fly system. They practiced all Thursday night and Friday and “incorporated blocking changes and set changes,” explained DeLonis. Farren stressed characterization, so all of the actors knew and understood all the inner workings of their characters. Fern, played by freshman Katherine Zook, was the only character who understood the animals. “I decided that Fern is the only one listening,” said Zook. “She’s young enough that she still listens and believes it when she hears it.” Wilkins played the role of Mrs. Arable. She said that to aid characterization, she and Zook “would stand in the back wing before our entrance and pretend to be a mother and daughter making breakfast in the morning. It helped us stay in character before going on stage.” Fern’s brother, Avery Arable, was played by sophomore Shane Miller. Part of his character included constantly picking a wedgie. This particular character trait was recorded to have occurred 42 times during the Saturday evening performance. “Sara Farren encourages ad libbing during scenes,” commented DeLonis. “Shane just did it one day. He probably had one. He picked it really small and Sarah really liked it. She told him to make it bigger and do it more often.” Wilkins described how Miller further developed his character. “He put straw in the bottom of his shoes to keep himself from walking like Shane and make sure he was walking like Avery, a 12-year-old boy.” Beyond the fun and lively characters, a deep and meaningful truth can be learned through the story of “Charlotte’s Web.” DeLonis saw many spiritual parallels in the show. “Every night before the show we did devotions,” she said. “Our devotions always came back to the idea of sacrifice. In the end, that’s what the show is about. Charlotte sacrifices her life for Wilbur. He has nothing to give her. She did it out of compassion, love and friendship. It’s the same way with Jesus. We had nothing to offer Him. He just loved us. This truth became our center.”
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