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by: PHOTO BY MARK SCHWAHN - Featured actors in the OCHS play Stuart Little include Natalia Shavlovsky (Mrs. Little), Blaine Holbert (Stuart Little), Sam Babst (Mr. Little) and Dusty Nevett (George Little).   What would it be like to live life if you were only 3 inches tall?

Audience members will find out when they watch “Stuart Little” unfold on the Oregon City High School stage, starting May 22.

The play, based on E.B. White’s book “Stuart Little,” is staged in story-theater style, said director Karlyn Love, adding that all 40 cast members and two crew members are in her play production class.

There are narrators who help move the action along, and the centerpiece onstage is a giant book that opens up to reveal illustrations of the Little family’s house and other locations.

“Our goal is to bring the book alive” for audiences of all ages, Love said, noting she hopes there will be lots of children in the audience.

“The show is built for kids. There will be lots of interaction with the audience, and it is less than one hour long. We wanted to do a show that would encourage more of the community to attend,” she said.

Channeling optimism

Blaine Holbert, 15, who plays Stuart Little, said his character shows that “size has nothing to do with it. It’s temperament and ability that count” in life.

“Those are words to live by. You can control your attitude, and you can control how hard you work,” Love said.

Holbert brings a bit of himself to the character, he noted, adding, “I try to bring out some of my own goofiness.”

He loves Stuart’s optimism, and said that one line in the play sums up his character: “I am filled with the joy of life.”

Although Stuart’s parents try to treat him as just another member of the family, “we are a bit more loose around him, to try to make him feel normal,” said Sam Babst, 17, who plays Mr. Little.

He based his character on his own father, he said, adding he loves the dry humor of Mr. Little, who says things like, “Well, he does look a lot like a mouse.”

That ironic tone is set right from the start of the play when one of the narrators says, “It is unusual for an American family to have a mouse, even in New York,” Love said.

“There is something about this family that is so endearing. It doesn’t seem to bother them that their second son is a mouse. They even change the words to ‘Three Blind Mice’ and ‘The Night Before Christmas,’ because they don’t want Stuart to feel different,” she said.

Of course, not everyone in the family is so sweet. The Littles’ older son, George, is a bit jealous of Stuart and thinks his parents give Stuart more attention, said Dusty Nevett, 18, who plays George.

“George is about 11 years old, and easily distracted. He can be very annoying to his parents. I’m not really that type of person, so it’s been fun to be annoying through the whole play,” Nevett said.

He based his character on his twin 9-year-old cousins, who are very hyperactive, he said.

Down to the basics

Even though the play is a comedy aimed at children, “it also shows how to raise a child who is different. The lesson is that you treat everybody the same, respectfully. Stuart turns out to be well-adjusted, happy and confident.

“He does not let being 3 inches tall stop him. He rides the bus in New York City and does not let anything get him down,” Love said.

She added that she recently read a biography about White that explained how he came to write “Charlotte’s Web.” When White was a young boy, he was sick and stayed home from school one day, and a mouse came into his room.

“He trained it and kept it as a pet. I feel like ‘Stuart Little’ came about because of that pet. It gave him the idea,” she said.

The humor in the play revolves around the fact that everyone Stuart meets treats him as a person. He is different, but he is accepted at face value, Love said.

Her favorite scene takes place in a school when Stuart is asked to be a substitute teacher.

“He goes into the school, and his philosophy of teaching is priceless. The first thing he does is throw out the academics, and he and the students sit and talk about what it means to be a good person. He teaches them about right and wrong.”

Fast facts

The Oregon City High School Theatre Arts Department presents E.B. White's “Stuart Little,” opening on Wednesday, May 22, and continuing May 23, 24 and 25 at 7:30 p.m. at the high school. Tickets are $8, and are available at the door only. The play is recommended for all ages. For more info, call 503-785-8980.

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