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Published: Friday, 12/2/2005

Show time is family time

BY ANN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Zapiecki family members participating in Charlotte s Web, the Musical are, from left, Brian, Alissa, Christy, Trevor, and Karen. Zapiecki family members participating in Charlotte s Web, the Musical are, from left, Brian, Alissa, Christy, Trevor, and Karen.
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If 9-year-old Brian Zapiecki calls his twin brother a rat, he might get away with it.

And if Trevor responds that Brian's a pig, well, that might be OK, too.

After all, both statements are true - but only until the curtain falls on the Grand Rapids Arts Council's production of Charlotte's Web, the Musical, based on E.B. White's classic children's book. Performances take place tonight, tomorrow night, and Sunday afternoon in the Grand Rapids, Ohio, Town Hall Theatre.

Brian plays Wilbur the runty pig, Trevor plays Templeton the rat, and their sister, Alissa, 12, plays plucky Charlotte the spider, who plots to save Wilbur from the dinner table by spinning words into her webs. The Zapiecki children's older sister, Christy, 15, plays a reporter/photographer, and their mom, Karen Zapiecki, is assistant to director Sam Macera.

The Zapieckis, of rural Grand Rapids, aren't northwest Ohio's only show-biz family, however, or the only family members appearing together in Charlotte's Web. The cast and crew also includes multiple members of six other families: the Mosers of Bowling Green, the Facklers of McClure, the Hesters of Liberty Center, the Kirkwoods of Providence Township, the Sarkans of Grand Rapids, and the Stimmels of rural Bowling Green.

Community theater is a popular activity for families, said Carolyn Erdody, arts director of the Grand Rapids Arts Council, but "this is probably the first time we've had this many."

Most of the Charlotte families are veterans of community theater. And while they may not gain the fame and fortune of such internationally known acting families as the Redgraves, the Barrymores, the Fondas, the Carradines, or the Baldwins, they find that acting on local stages has its own rewards.

Mrs. Zapiecki, a teacher, said it's "a fun way to work with kids and other adults. I really enjoy it."

And for her children, whose age span limits the number of interests they share, acting "puts them together in a positive way," she said. This is the boys' third play, and the girls' seventh.

For Susan Moser, who plays Martha, trying out for a role in Charlotte's Web was a way to prove a point with her children - Ellen, 12, who plays the role of Fern, and Daniel, 8, who plays a lamb.

Mrs. Moser said she was nervous when she raised her hand to audition. Afterward, "When we got into the car I said to the kids, 'I knew if I didn't do this that you'd say something about it forever.' ... I always tell them, 'If you don't try, you'll never know.' If I say it, I'd better do it."

The children helped her learn her lines and bolstered her spirits when she felt she didn't do well at rehearsals. "Ellen says, 'You're just too hard on yourself, Mom. Everyone has made a mistake.'‚óŹ"

Dee Fackler said she was recruited for the production because more adults were needed in the cast. With three children having parts in the play, "They said, you're here all the time anyway," she explained.

Mrs. Fackler will be a townsperson in Charlotte's Web, along with her son Ryan, 12, and daughter Kayla, 14. Nine-year-old Dayna is a sheep.

The experience has turned out to be fun, she said. "We're singing together and backstage together and talking about it afterward. You're doing the same thing instead of just watching."

Acting also has given the kids more confidence and offered lessons in making a commitment and working toward a goal, she observed.

Theater sometimes scrambles normal family roles, as the Kirkwoods have discovered.

In the Waterville Playshop's production of Hello, Dolly! earlier this fall, 17-year-old Sean Kirkwood played multiple roles including a policeman who had the pleasure of arresting his dad, Joel, who was playing the role of Horace Vandergelder.

In Charlotte's Web, Mr. Kirkwood plays a fairgrounds announcer, Sean is a concessionaire at the fair, and daughters, Rachel, 7, and Rebecca, 11, are baby spiders. All four also will appear in scenes involving groups of townspeople.

Mr. Kirkwood said theatrical productions offer a way to share time and a common interest with his children. "I think it's helped our relationship a great deal, even more so than sports because, unlike in sports where my role was getting them to practice and cheering them on from the sidelines, here I'm actually able to get into the game with them."

The Grand Rapids Arts Council production of "Charlotte's Web, the Musical" will be presented at 8 tonight and tomorrow night and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Grand Rapids Town Hall Theatre on the second floor of the Grand Rapids Town Hall. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under. Information: 419-832-7765 or 419-878-6826.

Contact Ann Weber at: aweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6126.



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