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Published: 12/10/2004

Half-a-century anniversary: Children's Theatre Workshop plans 'The Emperor's Nightingale'

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Member of the emperor's court look for the bird with the beautiful voice in the Children's Theatre Workshop production of The Emperor's Nightingale. Member of the emperor's court look for the bird with the beautiful voice in the Children's Theatre Workshop production of The Emperor's Nightingale.
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In honor of its 50th season, the Children's Theatre Workshop is going back to its roots.

"We're repeating the very first show we ever presented," said Ann Flagg, producer of The Emperor's Nightingale, which is scheduled tomorrow and Sunday.

"We opened with the show 50 years ago and haven't done it since," she said.

About 50 performers, ages 5 to 13, will present Dan Totheroh's adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen tale about the emperor of China and a nondescript bird with a marvelous voice.

When visitors to the emperor's Ming Dynasty court remark on the beautiful music that they've heard on his palace grounds, he decides that he must have the music for himself. With the help of Plum Leaf, a tiny scullery maid, he finds the bird and cages it.

The emperor of Japan learns of this and has a mechanical bird made, one that is beautiful and sings a perfect song whenever it is wound. He sends it to the emperor of China as a gift. The emperor of China is delighted. Not only can he have music on demand, he can have an object of beauty, too. He releases the real bird, which is dull and brown and doesn't always sing when he wants it too.

It is only when the emperor of China becomes deathly ill and longs for the varied and sweet songs of the real bird that he learns the lesson that has been before his eyes all along: True beauty is often obscured by simplicity.

Aha, but this is not the end of the story. Producer Flagg promises some twists and turns in the proceedings.

Two casts will present The Emperor's Nightingale. Cast A, which performs tomorrow, is headed by Will Garbe as the emperor of China, Andie Leiberman as Plum Leaf, and Tyler Sloan as the lord in waiting, the villain of the piece. Cast B performs Sunday, led by Kramer Lindsley as the emperor, Bernadette Reamer as Plum Leaf, and Tyler Marx as the lord in waiting.

Dottie Zimmerman is the director of the show through today. On the day of the show, the responsibilities are turned over to the youngsters and "all the adults put their hands in their pockets and whistle," Flagg said. "Children's Theatre Workshop is theater by children for children."

The student directors are Madison Comerzan for Cast A and Erica Renzhofer for Cast B, and CTW's Teen Company does all the lighting and the rest of the technical work.

One more thing, Flagg said. CTW has searched for members of the very first cast of The Emperor's Nightingale and hasn't been able to find any. So if you're out there, please show up and identify yourself, and you'll be welcomed with open arms.

Performances of "The Emperor's Nightingale" are scheduled at 1 and 3:30 p.m. tomorrow and Sunday in the Children's Theatre Workshop, 2417 Collingwood Blvd. (Enter the parking lot at the Collingwood Arts Center, 2413 Collingwood Blvd.; the theater is behind the center.) Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. Information: 419-244-5041.

A comedy about politics and interior decorating continues through tomorrow at Adrian College in Adrian.

Central to The Fourth Wall by A.R. Gurney (Love Letters, The Dining Room) are Peggy, who is obsessed with President Bush. She introduces conflict into her marriage with Roger when she alters their living room in order to make it look like a stage set. All the furniture faces a single wall (which is the audience), which she has left bare.

Roger decides Peggy needs some help and seeks the assistance of Floyd, a college theater professor, and a high school friend named Julia, who is living a sophisticated life in New York.

Mark S.P. Turvin, theater critic for Backstage Newspapers in New York, says, "[The Fourth Wall] becomes an exploration of the inherent theatricality of life and the need for liberals to connect with the world to stop the insanity of so-called compassionate conservatism."

Joshua Jones, an Adrian College senior, plays Roger; freshman Savannah Lee is Peggy; Michael Portteus and Brittany Will, also freshmen, are, respectively, Floyd and Julia.

Brad Larson, a senior majoring in communications-mass media and theater, is directing.

The Adrian College theater department presents "The Fourth Wall" at 8 tonight and 2 and 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Downs Hall Theatre on Madison Street in Adrian. Tickets are $5 for the general public and $3 for seniors. Information: 517-264-3922.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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