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OCTs Magic School Bus makes science fun for all

Blake Peebles plays Carlos in the fast-paced musical

During his first theater performance, Blake Peebles' mother thought he would be ready to leave at intermission. He was about 8 years old and they had gone to see a high school production of 'The Music Man.'

'I didn't want to go out at intermission because I didn't want them to start without me,' he said.

The acting bug had bitten Peebles, hard.

Next came acting classes at Lakewood Center for the Arts and appearances in productions with Northwest Children's Theatre, Artists Repertory and Oregon Children's Theatre.

This fall Peebles was invited to join OCT's Young Professionals, an advanced theater-training group for teens.

'It's just fun to spend time with people interested in the same stuff that I like,' he said.

Peebles and his friends will open the Portland premiere of 'The Magic School Bus Live: The Climate Challenge' on Jan. 22 at the Newmark Theatre. OCT has co-commissioned the play with Bay Area Children's Theatre and will be the only company to produce it outside of the national tour.

Peebles, as Carlos, joins Emily Sahler Beleele as Ms. Frizzle, Connor Delaplane as Arnold, Sophie Shely as Wanda, Lauren Steele as Keesha, Ashlee Waldbauer as Dorothy Ann, and Claire Aldridge as Liz the Lizzard in the production. Bryce Earhart shares the roll of Carlos; Peebles and Earhart fill in for each other during upcoming final exams.

'Everybody knows the 'Magic School Bus.' Basically, the play is about trying to figure out why the climate is changing, what's going on with the Earth and how we can fix it,' said Peebles. 'It has a lot of good information. In fact, the third and fourth grade classes at Forest Hills are coming to watch as a field trip. It's perfect for that age.'

Peebles said the songs and dances really add to the performance, though the dancing proved challenging for him.

'Lizzie the Lizard is a fantastic dancer … I'm not a dancer,' he said. 'I'm kinda clumsy - but I've been working on it. The songs are terrific. I really love the cast and the whole production team.

'The play makes science fun and funny. The cast calls it a science party.'

'The Magic School Bus Live: The Climate Challenge' runs Jan. 22 through Feb. 19 in the Newmark Theatre, 1111 S.W. Broadway in Portland with performances Saturday at 2 and 5 p.m. and Sunday performances at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $16 to $30 for adults and $13 to $26 for children. Group rates are available. Call the box office at 503-228-9571 or TicketMaster at 503-790-ARTS to purchase.