It’s not everyday a high school play is produced in one month, but that’s what’s happening with “Charlotte’s Web” at Newark High School, 625 Peirson Ave.
Auditions for E.B. White’s story of an unlikely friendship between a pig and spider were held earlier in September, and the first of three performances will be held on Oct. 6.
Director Emily Howard said producing a show in such a tight time frame is challenging, but one everyone working on the show is up to.
“As always, I am so impressed with the students at Newark High School,” Howard said. “We auditioned on Sept. 6 and will open on Oct. 6 — a very short turnaround. We’re just starting our second week and have already blocked the show, built the set and are now working on details. The cast and crew is taking real leadership in building the set, crafting props, working on publicity efforts and helping with our sensory-friendly performance. Also, this year I am very excited about the partnership with Mrs. Renee Bailey and her art students, who are lending their talents to our set painting.”
A lighthearted departure from some of the dramatic productions presented at NHS in recent years, Howard believes show-goers will be pleased.
“‘Charlotte’s Web’ is a beautiful story,” she said. “I have very fond memories of the times my mom spent reading books out loud to me as a child, and ‘Charlotte’s Web’ was definitely on that list. The kind, gentle story about friendship and sacrifice resonates with everyone. There’s something really sweet about the full circle of the story when Wilbur, understanding the true sacrifice Charlotte made, is determined to honor her memory and care for her spider eggs. Growing up, I always thought the book was about a pig who becomes a star, but reading it as an adult, you can see that the community was necessary to get Wilbur where he ends up. The show teaches us about friendship, empathy and kindness, and I think those are always relevant themes. I was also really excited about producing something that would bring young audiences to the theater. This is the perfect show to introduce children to theater.”
There is also another special component to this show.
“We are offering a sensory-friendly performance on Saturday, Oct. 7 at 2 p.m.,” Howard said. “Sensory-friendly performances are designed to create an experience that is welcoming and accessible to more audience members, specifically those families with children with autism or other disabilities that create sensory sensitivities. For us, that means we will be keeping the house lights on dim rather than completely out and removing any loud sound cues — fireworks, thunderstorm, etc. Audience members will also be free to move around the auditorium or vocalize during the performance. Some groups call it a ‘shush-free’ performance. I’ve read about this trend in performing arts, and I knew ‘Charlotte’s Web’ was the perfect show to give this a try here at Newark.”
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Members of the cast and crew include Isabella Bailey as Lamb/fairgoer, Olivia Bailey as Gooser/fairgoer, Kelsie Bushart as Templeton, Megan Cauwels as Edith Zuckerman/narrator, Ben Cepulo as Wilbur, Madison Chandler as Marable Arable/narrator, Jack Comella as Homer Zuckerman/narrator, Cherylanne Garrett as Sheep/fairgoer, Ryan Hermanet as Avery Arable/narrator, Carson Jordan as John Arable/Uncle, Ashton Keene as Gander/announcer, Miller McKinley as Lurvy, Nadia Rothpearl as Fern Arable and Anisha Stallworth as Charlotte.
Crew members are Natalie Acquista, sound; Preston Precourt, lighting; and Liberty Faliveno, stage manager.
“Charlotte’s Web” evening performances will be held at 7 p.m. on Oct. 6-7. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors, and will be available at the door.