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Published: Thursday, 1/15/2009

Adrian theater troupe presents Steinbeck classic

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Some of America s finest literature arose from the Great Depression, and Adrian s Croswell Opera House presents a stage adaptation of one of those works when it opens John Steinbeck s Of Mice and Mentomorrow.

Steinbeck s story of homeless men who try to hold on to their dreams as they travel from job to job explores the themes of hope, resilience, and friendship, according to Douglas Miller, who directs the show, in which he stars as Lennie Small. He also designed the set and lighting.

I m more of a production person, but I wanted to play Lennie one more time before I got too old, said Miller in a telephone interview. For his day job, Miller is a professor of theater and director of technical theater at Siena Heights University in Adrian.

Those looking for a romanticized version of Steinbeck s work won t find it at the Croswell. In other lives, the men around whom the play revolves may have been bankers, teachers, even farmers, but the economic forces of the Depression forced them to leave their homes and families and become itinerant laborers.

This is not a good thing, Miller said. The characters are all fighting their personal demons.

Key to the action are the intelligent, cynical George Milton and Lennie Small, a large man of limited mental abilities. They are best friends who talk about owning their own farm some day, where Lennie can raise rabbits and play with puppies, and they won t be beholden to anyone.

When they take a job on a ranch near Salinas, Calif., their dream seems possible, but dreams and reality collide.

There is a complexity to the people and a simplicity to their lives, Miller said. This is a powerful and legitimate piece of theater.

The Croswell cast also features Denny Jacobs as George, Sean Catron as Curley, Rebecca Bernath as Curley s wife, Peter Mackey as Candy, John MacNaughton as Slim, Ray Brown as Crooks, James Hanley as Whit, Tim Brayman as Boss, and Randy Guernsey as Carlson.

This is not a show for children, Miller said. There are racial epithets and some intense depictions of death. He recommends it for middle-schoolers and older audiences.

The Croswell Opera House, 129 East Maumee St., Adrian, presents Of Mice and Men at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 25. Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $18 for students, with discounts for the upper balcony. Information: 517-264-7469.

It was an ordinary day in December, 1955, when Rosa Parks got on a Montgomery, Ala., bus. During her ride, the bus got crowded, and the driver ordered the African-American seamstress to relinquish her seat to a white passenger.

She refused, and her subsequent arrest began a chain of events that led to Parks becoming known as the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.

Mad River Theater Works, a professional troupe based in West Liberty, Ohio, will re-create Parks story in drama and song Wednesday at Lourdes College. The troupe s show, Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks, will be presented as part of the Theater Vision program, which is aimed at school field trips. If space is available, the public, including age-appropriate children, is welcome to attend. Walk On is recommended for students in grades 6-12.

Walk On: The Story of Rosa Parks is scheduled at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the auditorium of the Franciscan Theatre & Conference Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. Tickets are $8. Information: 419-824-3986.

How does evil spring from innocence?

Bryan Beckwith ponders this question in his one-man play, A.H. (before he changed our history), which he presents Saturday at Ohio Northern University in Ada.

The ONU alumnus uses animation, classical music, physical action, and many other theatrical elements as he explores the life of Adolph Hitler from childhood until the age of 30 when he joined the National Socialist German Workers Party.

History tells us that as a sensitive child in Austria, Hitler wanted to become an artist. Beckwith s play looks at the elements in Hitler s life that led him to become the most reviled man of the 20th century.

"A.H. (before he changed our history) is scheduled at 8 p.m. Saturday in the Freed Center for the Performing Arts in Ada, Ohio. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and non-ONU students; $9 for children, and $5 for ONU students. Information:419-772-1900.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.



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