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Six 'Appalachian Wonder Tales' on tap from Kanawha Players this weekend

WANT TO GO?

"Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales"

Presented by Kanawha Players

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Kanawha Players Theater, 309 Beauregard St.

COST: Adults $16, students and children $10; family packages available.

INFO: 304-343-7529 or visit www.kanawhaplayers.org

NOTE: A sensory-friendly performance for special needs individuals is at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For director Luci Britton, when it comes to the Kanawha Players' "Sing Down the Moon: Appalachian Wonder Tales," there's one word to describe the show: family.

"The whole goal of the cast is we, as a family, are putting on a show for your families," she said of the production, which has four performances this weekend.

She noted that the 7 p.m. start time is an hour earlier than usual to better accommodate children's bedtimes.

The two-hour show takes several popular fairy tales, gives them an Appalachian spin and mixes them with original old-time music to drive the action along. It has six tales: "Jack and the Wonder Bean," "Jack's First Job," "Jack and King Marock," "Catskins," "The Enchanted Tree" and "The Sow and Her Three Pigs."

The Jack in the first three tales is, of course, he of the beanstalk fame. "Catskins" is a play on Cinderella, and "The Enchanted Tree" is a beauty and the beast tale. "The Sow and Her Three Pigs" is a take on "The Three Little Pigs," in which all the dialogue is sung. (Think "Les Miserables.")

A few of performers in the show are members of the local chapter of the Sweet Adelines barbershop chorus. Though they're no strangers to singing, this is their first time acting, Britton said.

It's also her first time directing. She said she got a call from KP president Katonya Hart, with whom she went to college, then read the script and fell in love.

"It's a funny play; you will laugh," she said. "It's very upbeat, very uplifting and very fun."

The cast ranges in age from 8 to 82, and like Britton and the Sweet Adelines singers, many others are new to performing. Some of the adults have acted in the past, but not since high school.

"Lots of them are doing it for their families -- their children and grandchildren," Britton said. 

Though she admitted directing has been challenging, she said it hasn't been overly stressful. Returning to the theme of family, she said she encouraged a close-knit atmosphere among the cast and crew.

"I told them I want us to be like a family: We'll have days we get along and days we don't, but we are going to work it out together. My goal is they understand to think of us as a family."

Because this is a family-friendly show, Kanawha Players will try something new this weekend. At 1 p.m. Saturday, the troupe will present a special sensory-friendly show.

This means the lighting and sound effects will be toned down to make the environment more accessible for families with autistic and special needs individuals.

Board member Tracy Hunt is spearheading the project, which she believes is the first of its kind in the area.

"It was [vice president] Ginger Workman's idea," Hunt said. "I am the parent of an autistic child, and all the board knows that. She asked me what I thought about it. I just took it and ran with it!"

In addition to tweaking the lighting and sound, the Saturday afternoon performance will have a quiet room with coloring pages and bubbles -- "low-key activities if they get overwhelmed and need to go out and collect themselves," Hunt said.

Volunteers will be stationed at all exits to make sure no one wanders off.

If this goes well, the group hopes to do sensory-friendly performances with future shows that lend themselves to it (child-friendly, without too dramatic lighting and sound effects). Hunt said the board has put together a temporary committee for sensory-friendly shows.

"I hope to get enough audience to support it," she said. "I hope to bring more sensory-friendly activities to the area." Reach Amy Robinson at flipside@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4881.


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