By Valerie Baldowski
The Henry Players' latest theatrical production will use a simple barnyard setting to illustrate the value of friendship. "Charlotte's Web" opens tonight at the Henry County Performing Arts Center (PAC), and continues through Sunday.
The performance times are 7:30 p.m., tonight; 10 a.m., and 7:30 p.m., Friday; 2 p.m., and 7:30 p.m., Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, according to Director Tammy Kirby. Ticket are $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, students and children.
The play is based on the book, "Charlotte's Web," written by E.B. White.
The story depicts the bond between Wilbur, the pig, and a barn spider named Charlotte. When Wilbur is in danger of being slaughtered by the farmer, Charlotte "spins" messages in her web in praise of Wilbur, to persuade the farmer to let Wilbur live.
One of the human characters in the tale is Fern Arable, an 8-year-old, who saves Wilbur early in the story, and who has the ability to converse with the animals.
"The main point of the story is about friendship," said Kirby, the director. "Kids love it for that, and also because Fern can talk to the animals, and the animals can talk back to her. The novel is extremely popular."
Another character in the story is Templeton, a greedy rat who only agrees to help Charlotte and Wilbur after being offered food. The role of Templeton will be played by 18-year-old Hampton resident, Alex Eberhart.
"I didn't actually realize when I took the part that he is the villain in the show," said Eberhart. "Villains are always fun to play, something that you can sink your teeth into."
Eberhart, an employee at Chick-fil-A, in Griffin, first became a member of Henry Players during the 2004 Christmas season. He left the group in 2005, but returned this year. He said "Charlotte's Web" will be his first Henry Players performance since 2005.
Playing the part of a rat, he said, is not as difficult as dressing the part.
"The role actually came very easy to me," he said. "The only big challenge to playing the character is putting on a fake rat nose made of latex. It's about four inches long. It's pretty messy."
Sixteen-year-old Conyers resident, Mary Kuhn, will play the part of Charlotte.
"I love her. She is so classy, sophisticated, and clever," said Kuhn. "She has a kind heart, and is very motherly toward Wilbur."
For Kuhn, a rising high school junior, who is home-schooled, the production will be her first Henry Players performance. She said she found out about the group's existence from a friend, Christian Thomas. "He stumbled upon the web site and found out about the audition [for "Charlotte's Web"] and told me," added Kuhn.
Thomas, an 18-year-old McDonough resident, will play the part of Wilbur.
"Originally , I was going to audition for Templeton's part, and my mom handed me the script for Wilbur's monologue," he said. "I said, 'Come on mom, this is really short notice,' but I did it anyway. I got the part, and was completely surprised."
Thomas said he has been drawn to acting for a number of years.
"As a kid and growing up, I've always been one of the guys who liked to be really dramatic and expressive," he said. "I've always been one for changing my voice, and doing accents. I like going on stage and bringing others into our world."
Thomas, who is also new to the Henry Players, is a Detroit, Mich., native, who lived in Florida for several years before moving to Henry County in 2003.
He previously performed on-stage, and said when he learned about the Henry Players, his love of acting was rekindled.
"I got the drama bug again, and couldn't get rid of it," he said.