Young actors twist old story

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— A tomboyish Red Riding Hood who raps, a wolf with a lawyer, an evil granny and a woodsman who doubles as a deputy.

This isn't your typical "Little Red Riding Hood" story; it's an updated version Hayden Valley Elementary students will perform Saturday in Town Park.

The eight students in the school's Summer Theater Group have been memorizing lines, painting their set, finding props and costumes, and polishing their acting for three weeks to ensure audiences are dazzled by their performance.

At the same time, the students are learning they can appreciate stories in ways beyond the movie theater, director and third-grade teacher Kathy Deepe said.

"One of my goals is to make sure kids understand the appreciation of a story or literature can be extended using theater and drama," she said. "It's another way to see how a story unfolds and be a part of it."

The students in the production are Errol Ormesher, 9, who plays the Wolf; Vicki Muhme, 9, who plays Little Red Riding Hood; Cassidy Bush, 11, who plays Wolf's lawyer; Mary Willingham, 9, who plays evil Granny; Ashley Otto, 9, who plays Bricks the Pig; Cait Ormesher, 10, who plays Straw the Pig; Delaney VeDepo, 11, who plays Sticks the Pig; Dylan Rice, 7, who plays the woodsman/deputy.

Though the students were involved in nearly every aspect of the play, most said stepping outside themselves to portray characters was the best part.

"You get to be a new person," Muhme said.

In addition to memorizing lines, changing roles was a challenge for the students, who realized that becoming a character involves more than just a change of costume.

"I learned that it's very important to be loud and that the expressions on your face count," Otto said.

For Deepe, the "ultimate compliment" is seeing students put their body movements, emotions, facial expressions and voices into their roles.

"You can tell the moment when that clicks and they become the character," she said. "That's probably the highlight, when they become the character in all aspects."

The students took their creativity further by tweaking the play to fit their personalities and solving set dilemmas, which is all part of taking ownership of the play, Deepe and assistant director Sandy Meade said.

Interchanging scenes between the woods and Granny's house was a challenge for the group, which came up with props, such as a wheelchair for Granny, that were easy to move between scenes.

While entertaining others, theater also helps build confidence in the students, who may learn to express themselves better in other areas of their lives, Deepe said.

Deepe and Meade have organized several student plays including the all-school production of "James and the Giant Peach" in February. Deepe is considering organizing a similar production of "Hansel and Gretel" or a version of "Through the Looking Glass" during the next school year.

The Summer Theater Group will perform "Little Red Riding Hood: The Wolf's Version" at 1 and 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Hayden Town Park after the Colorado Days Shriners barbecue.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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