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Children’s Adventure Stories Come to Life

February 16, 2000

Folk tales of adventure and trickery will come to life in the Oklahoma Baptist University Theatre For Young People's production of "Brer Rabbit Tales," adapted for the stage by Stanley Vincent Longman from the stories of Joel Chandler Harris.

Nearly 2000 children from the area schools will be able to see the production during matinee performances Feb. 21-28 and March 1-3. Evening performances will be held Feb. 25-26 and March 3-4 at 7:30 p.m. in Sarkeys Theatre.

Each of the four main character parts is shared by two students in order to accommodate the frequent performance schedule.

Brer Rabbit is played by Cheryl Sartain, freshman theatre major from Tyler, Texas, and Jamie Henninger, junior theatre major from Tulsa. Brer Terrapin is played by Jodi Wideman, senior English major from Broken Arrow and Megan Neighbors, freshman telecommunications major from Pryor. Brer Bear is played by Lucas A. Roeschley, freshman theatre major from Frisco, Texas, and Brandon Rister Roye, sophomore theatre major from Jenks. Brer Fox is played by and Anna Wong, senior interpersonal and public communication major from Walnut Creek, Calif., and Kelli D. Kiser, sophomore theatre major from Edmond.

Laura Byland, OBU instructor of theatre, is the director and set designer for the production. The assistant director is Kara De Ann, senior theatre major from Shawnee and the stage manager and make-up artist is Arlene Caudill, senior art major from Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The lighting designer is Heather Carmen, senior theatre major from Decatur, Texas, Jamie Henniger serves as costume designer as well as her role as Brer Rabbit, the costume shop manager is Dottie DeLeon, instructor of theatre, and the props manager is Cynthia Lewis, senior communications major from Norman.

The tales are adapted from Harris' stories published in the late nineteenth century. Harris presented the stories as told by a black Uncle Remus to two children on a Georgia plantation.

"Brer Rabbit Tales," rooted strongly in West African folk tales, is associated with Uncle Remus' name, although his character does not appear in the play. The stories feature Brer Rabbit's clever one-upmanship in the face of the overbearing strength of Brer Bear and the foxy maneuverings of Brer Fox.

Caudill has previously worked with the Theatre For Young People and notices a different approach to entertaining a younger audience.

"In children's theatre, our approach to developing character is not as deep into the mental aspect, but instead, the focus is more on the physical," she said. "That's what children relate to more. Through the set and costumes, we are trying to make things large and colorful by copying cartoons and animated characters."

She believes that the children will be attracted to many aspects of the play. "The actor's interact with the audience more in children's theatre," she said. "Kids always like to see people being tricked or outwitted. And, for that moment, the child thinks the characters are real and that the story is really unfolding before their eyes."

Participating schools include Wannette Elementary, Will Rogers Elementary, Tecumseh Barnard Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary, Pleasant Grove Elementary, Dale Elementary, Varnum Elementary, North Rock Creek Elementary, Bethel Elementary, Wesley United pre-school, Shawnee YMCA day care, and homeschool groups.

To make reservations or purchase tickets, call 878-2347 or go by the Sarkeys office located in the Sarkeys Telecommunication Center. Tickets are $4 for OBU students, staff and faculty, $5 for general admission and $1 for young people age 16 and under.