Company lets children take the stage as their parents help out behind it

NEIGHBORS

November 18, 2001|By Christina Bittner | Christina Bittner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

EVERYONE HAS known children whose mission in life seems to be to make adults miserable. No matter what you do for them, no matter what you give up for them, it isn't enough.

(Of course, these are never our children, the perfect little angels.)

But there can be humor in children's exasperating ways. To see a perfect example of it, catch today's matinee performance of Ransom of Red Chief in the Studio Theater of Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, 190 Hammonds Lane.

This tale tells the story of Sam and Bill, two down-on-their luck scam artists who decide to kidnap a child and hold him for ransom. Unfortunately the child is not what they bargained for, and they end up having to pay his mother to take him back.

Under the direction of Robert Neal Marshall, the Merely Players company has put together a fine adaptation of O. Henry's classic short story.

Marshall said children often get their first acting experience with the Merely Players.

"I don't expect to get from them what I get from professionals, but I treat them like little pros," he said. "When they are kids they have everything to learn.

"I tell them that when they are on stage, they can be anything," he said. "They can look dumb or silly, but it's not them - it's a part they are playing. Who knows? One day they could be acting on Broadway or doing other work in the theater. The next Rodgers and Hammerstein could be right here."

The Merely Players theater company is managed entirely by volunteers. Its president, Evan Brierley, said the company aims to give young people a chance to learn about and enjoy the theater. And as the children learn about theater, their parents learn how to build and paint scenery, sew costumes, operate the sound and lighting equipment, and apply makeup. Occasionally they get to act as well.

"One of my sons got involved in 1994. I came in and learned how to do the makeup. I watched what someone else did and did a little experimenting to get the desired effect," Brierley said.

He appears onstage for the first time in this production, playing a mailman.

Another parent, Barbara Floyd, said that after four years, the Merely Players has turned into a family hobby.

"Each parent has a job, everyone has learned a little bit about everything. It's a great hobby, no different than helping out at soccer practice," she said.

Floyd is serving as the lighting technician for this production.

Floyd's son, Buddy Pease of Severna Park, is a member of the company and a freshman at Baltimore School for the Arts. Buddy, 14, plays Bill, one of the kidnappers, in Ransom of Red Chief. He aspires to a career in the performing arts.

"I started singing when I was in the fifth grade," he said. "Barbara Underwood, my teacher at Oak Hill Elementary, suggested that I study further. At the Baltimore School for the Arts we have real professionals training us."

Kelly McGhee, a pupil at Brooklyn Park Middle School, hopes the experience she gets from the Merely Players will teach her more about acting. She plays Mavis Brown, one of the townspeople.

"I've been in talent shows at school and workshops. My mom saw a notice for this in the Pennysaver. I want to continue in the theater. When I go to North County High next year I will definitely try to be in theater," she said.

Showtime today is 3 p.m. Mathew Wetzel, 12, plays Red Chief.

In the spring, the Merely Players will stage a production of Grease. The show will be presented in Chesapeake Center's main theater. Auditions will be held Feb. 2 and 4. Information: 410-987-5274.

New Brooklyn Park troops

Girl Scouts of America invites girls in kindergarten through 12th grade to become members of troops being formed in Brooklyn Park.

Scout spokeswoman Linda Fitzpatrick said Girl Scouts participate in sports, hike and work to earn badges.

The registration fee is $7. Meeting schedules will be determined as the troops are formed. Information: 410-789-1954.

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