By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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The family-friendly show, at 7:30 both Friday and Saturday night, starts with a dramatic reading of Louisa May Alcott’s “Spinning-Wheel Stories,” set in the late 1800s.
In this performance, everyone is gathered at Grandma’s house for Thanksgiving, and an intense snowstorm keeps the children stuck inside. Of course, they beg their grandmother for stories from her childhood.
“It will be a relaxing, fun evening of being together in a warm place while the cold rains blow outside — just like the Louisa May Alcott play itself,” said Ellen Matheny, a cast member and spokeswoman for the Rainforest Players.
The one-act play is part narration and part live action, featuring seven adults and five sixth-graders from Forks Middle School.
It’s a reading, yes, but director Lela Kriebel wasn’t about to have her actors sitting in chairs, hunched over scripts. The kids, an enthusiastic bunch, add some dancing to the proceedings.
“They are a delightful group,” said Kriebel.
She and her crew have rustled up costumes and props for this show, since all of the old gear was lost in the fire.
This weekend’s shows reflect the joy the players find in doing live theater, added Matheny.
The troupe doesn’t expect to have a performance space any time soon, since construction of a new Rainforest Arts Center in Forks won’t begin till next year.
In the wake of the fire that razed the former Oddfellows hall and a store building next door, the state Department of Natural Resources has provided its conference room, 411 Tillicum Lane, as a makeshift performance space.
Admission will be by donation at the door.
“Spinning-Wheel Stories” is about family members recounting their own histories.
These are the tales behind that pair of slippers or that tablecloth that comes out again at this time every year; how Grandma met her husband; how life was on the home front amid the Civil War.
To add even more authenticity, Kriebel invited local spinners over, and a handful plan on coming to spin fiber during the play.
The second part of this Rainforest Players production is a “Punch & Judy” puppet show, complete with a new set made by crew member Gerry Morris.
“The paint is barely dry,” quipped Kriebel.
She and other Rainforest Players haul the set and props around in their cars, since there’s no place to store them.
‘Art imitates life’
In this puppet-populated tale, Punch and Judy’s home has been destroyed in a fire — “art imitates life,” as Matheny said.
Punch decides to get rich quick by going into the cruise ship business, but things go awry as various sea animals visit the vessel.
There’s an octopus, for example, and a boat that floats inside the conference room, added Kriebel.
“Spinning Wheel Stories” runs 45 minutes and “Punch & Judy” half an hour.
The Rainforest Players, Kriebel added, “are from sixth grade to [age] 80,” including Forks middle-schoolers Chelsey Simons, William Fleck, Zach Johansen, Kayci Trettevik and Jordan Goakey, alongside grown-ups Morris, Matheny, Steve and Lela Kriebel, Liane and Curt White and Warren Brown.
Several of the cast members appeared last summer in A.A. Milne’s “Mr. Pim Passes By,” the Rainforest Players’ first production following the fire.
It, too, was staged at the Department of Natural Resources.
“You can either give it up,” said Lela Kriebel, “or you can pick up the pieces of what you have and carry on. And that’s what we’re doing.”