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'A Walk in the Woods'


The CCMS drama department will perform a play Saturday, June 7

by: KEVIN SPERL - From left, Hannah Mansur, Hazel Hoffman, Olivia Cooper, and Gala Smith are members of the cast in the upcoming middle school's production of 'A Walk in the Woods.'

Imagine a tale that includes Goldilocks, the Three Bears, Red Riding Hood, the Three Pigs, and Hansel and Gretel, all in the same story.

On Saturday, June 7, at 2 p.m., the tale “A Walk in the Woods,” by Debbie Metzler, will come alive, courtesy of the drama department at Crook County Middle School.

Theater at the school had been on hiatus after being cut due to the economic recession, and it was the interest of a group of sixth-graders that raised the possibility of its return. Subsequently, the call went out for adult volunteers to lead the effort.

Seventh-grade language arts teacher Valerie Shelton answered the call and, along with parent volunteer Nikki Hoff, will direct the play.

“I was a speech and debate kid and did a little bit of drama in college, so I didn’t know what to expect,” said Shelton. “When I put out the call for students, I thought maybe eight or so students would respond, but we had 32 attend our first meeting.”

The search was on for a play to produce.

“Not having a big background in drama, I had to do some research,” said Shelton. “Dark dramatic theater is difficult for kids this age. I thought it much better to do something humorous.”

Reading a synopsis of “A Walk in the Woods,” shows the play to come across as fun and, at times, downright chaotic -- right up the alley of middle school students looking to let loose.

In the play, a forest-savvy Goldilocks, on the run from the Three Bears, takes time to help Little Red Riding Hood, who is leery of her stepmother’s motivation in sending her out into the woods at dusk with a basket full of food and a bright red cloak. Along the way, they are saved by the Woodsman, who also happens to be Hansel and Gretel’s father, and from the zany Wolf, the same canine who plagues the Three Pigs.

Hazel Hoffman’s role as the wolf gives a good indication of the chaos to be experienced by the audience.

“I get to be in a pillow fight, two fights with fly swatters, and blown up by a TNT box,” she said with a smile. “It is kind of like the Road Runner cartoon, only I get blown up by pigs.”

Given the turnout of students interested in taking part, the play luckily offers a large number of roles, both male and female.

“When we looked at the scripts, one of the things we wanted is for the kids not to have to audition,” said Shelton. “We wanted to accommodate everyone who was interested in taking part.”

Some of the parts, including Goldilocks and Little Red Riding Hood, have almost double the amount of lines of the other roles, causing Shelton some concern that a single actor would be able to memorize that much of the script.

Up stepped twins Gala and Hope Smith and Jiselle and Jillian Gish.

“We gave those roles to the twins so they could share the role,” explained Shelton. “Gala and Hope will share the role of Goldilocks and Jiselle and Jillian will share Riding Hood.”

Gala and Hope Smith have always performed on stage together. Their resume includes the role of Tweedledee and Tweedledum in “Alice In Wonderland,” and as Thing One and Thing Two in “Seussical.”

“As Goldilocks, I get to scream,” laughed Gala Smith. “But, I think my sister would like to do that instead -- she is more dramatic.”

Olivia Cooper has been cast as Jill from the story “Jack and Jill.”

“I’ve been in two plays prior to this one,” she said. “In our summer musical theater camp, I played the Cheshire Cat in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and the panther in the ‘Jungle Book’.”

Cooper feels the role suits her well and she relishes the thought of being able to call others a bunch of cheaters and get away with it.

Hannah Mansur, who has been cast as the Candy Bread Witch from “Hansel and Gretel,” can only claim acting experience from an impromptu skit she performed for her family when she was a second-grader.

“I’ve always been dramatic, however” she proclaimed, “And, in this play, I get to cackle.”

Bringing this production to the stage may be led by Shelton, but she is quick to admit that the support of the district and the community is the reason the curtain will rise on the fledgling troupe.

“It’s been a great grass root efforts from everyone,” she said. “This would not have happened with out everyone’s help.”

That help includes Anita Hoffman, Crook County High School drama teacher, and her students.

“Anita has been my go-to person,” said Shelton. “And, her students have been a huge help in building the set.”

Shelton encourages anyone who is able to supply wood, help out with some painting or assist with printing costs to contact her at the middle school.

There is a single performance, scheduled for Saturday, June 7 at 2 p.m. In the high school auditorium. Tickets are $2 for student, $3 for adults and children aged 5 and under are free. Tickets may be purchased at the door or at the main office of the middle school.

The cast of “A Walk in the Woods”

Goldilocks: Hope And Gaila Smith

Papa Bear: Casey Tunison

Mama Bear: Kandace Bingham

Baby Bear: Vickie Bates

Jack Horner: Hunter Benson

Butcher: Jenna Porter

Baker: Jaedon Churchill Dicks

Candlestick Maker: Anna Williamson

Gypsy: Katy Norris

Jill: Olivia Cooper

Red Riding Hood: Jiselle Gish

Snow White: Jill Gish

Wolf: Hazel Hoffman

Witch: Hannah Mansur

Grandmother: Mataya Barber

Woodsman: Jaedon Churchill Dicks

Hayward Pig: Jesse Williams

Stickly Pig: Kara Hurst

Mason Pig: Trenaty Iveans

Hansel: Steven Fall

Gretel: Sahali Whiteside

Cinderella: Leahlynn Cates

Stepmother: Kaitlyn Nixon

Fairy Godmother: Willow Myers