A fairytale classic made up of real boys (and girls) is coming to Community Players’ stage this weekend.
The latest Acting Up production, “Once Upon a Pine: The Adventures of Pinocchio” follows a lonely toymaker, Geppetto, who builds a boy out of wood. Geppetto is surprised when the boy comes to life, and has an adventure involving talking crickets, bullish carnival workers, and a giant man-eating fish.
“It’s the classic story that we’re familiar with, ‘Pinocchio’, but it has a really fun take on it with the narrators telling the story and creating the scenes, and playing all kinds of different characters throughout the show, as well,” Community Players’ associate artistic director, Tyler Rinne, said. “And it’s really funny. It’s very aware that it’s a show, both with how it creates the show, and some of the lines reference to ‘hey, I’m really an 11 year old in a costume.’ So it’s a really funny little take on this classic show.”
The cast includes Esme Kassmeier as Pinocchio, Peyton Raber as Geppetto, and Cecily Wiedel as the magical Blue-Haired Fairy, Callen Behrends, Jonah Erikson, Kaylynn Harder, Addison Schafer, and Leena Tunink as narrators, and Alex Starkey and Vincent Viveros as a variety of roles. Rinne directs the production.
Kassmeier said she been in a couple of shows before, but was completely shocked to get the role of Pinocchio.
“My mom, when she saw the cast list, she made it look like I got a really bad role,” Kassmeier said. “Then she showed me, and I kind of flipped out. I was really surprised. It was a good feeling.”
Raber said that Geppetto is similar to roles he’s played in the past, and that he found it easy to prepare.
“I don’t really study my script at home,” Raber said. “To be honest, if you asked me for one of my lines I probably couldn’t remember it. I only remember what I’m supposed to do when I’m on stage.”
Rinne said that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, rehearsals have been shortened from a semester to a couple of weeks, and that all of the actors will wear masks with microphones throughout the performances.
Community Players also requires that audience members wear a mask that covers both mouth and nose at all times while in the building. There will also be a temperature check for those arriving at a performance, with all audience groups will be seated with physical distancing. More information about Community Players’ COVID procedures can be found at beatricecommunityplayers.com/coronavirus-update
“We have a great little cast of 10 actors, still grades 5-8, that have just been putting together a great show, and they’re really excited to show it to an audience, both in-person and streaming,” Rinne said. “I think right now, they’re looking for outlets to express themselves, just like always. I think this has always been a great place where kids can get together across different schools, different grades, and share a common interest. It’s really important to keep them here at the theater. I know that so many of them come to love it here, and I know they were really missing it when they were gone for a while. So it’s been really great for me to see them here and still involved in the theater.”
Kassmeier said she hopes audiences take away from the show that even though bad things happen in life, you can always get through it.
Raber said he hopes people simply enjoy it, and that his brother stays awake for the whole performance.
Acting Up began in 2011 as part of the theater’s focus on educational outreach, and teaches students about all aspects of putting together a show.
Rinne said one of the rewarding parts of Acting Up for him is how much the students come together through the course of rehearsals.
“Not only with their friendships, but also creating a piece of theater together,” Rinne explained. “I think it’s a really important way that they express themselves, and also gain confidence in themselves. I love seeing kids that come in either at the beginning of the semester to the end, or in fifth grade to eighth grade, just how much their confidence and their stage presence has grown throughout. So that’s been really rewarding for me, and I think that that’s a really important thing that we offer through this program for kids.”
The show runs Friday, April 9 and Saturday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 11 at 2 p.m.
Ticket prices are $15 for adults, $8 for students and children, and $10 for streaming the show online.
Tickets can be purchased at the box office, located at 412 Ella St. in Beatrice, on weekdays from 12-5 p.m. and two hours prior to performances. Reservations can also be made by calling (402) 228-1801 or online at www.beatricecommunityplayers.com.
The recorded performance of the show will be made available for online on-demand viewing for a limited time, April 16-30, which is also available to purchase through the theater’s website.