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One Great Show and Two Darling Casts

One Great Show and Two Darling Casts(Posted: April 9, 2013)

Take a little time at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith and return to childhood for a totally different take on a fairy tale, when the Academy of the Arts presents "Once Upon a Mattress" during the weekend of May 17-19 as part of its Showtime Series.

The performers – students in grades 3-6 – are divided into Academy Playerz and Academy Playerz Too, with one cast on stage for the first two performances and the other cast performing the last two show times. Director Shannon Stoddard of Fort Smith said both groups are ready for the curtain to go up and will dazzle their audiences.

"I love working with these kids," Stoddard said. "They have such a love for theatre and bring so much enthusiasm to rehearsals and to the production itself. There is never a dull moment with either cast and their performances will amaze audiences."

Stoddard loves the script as much as she loves the cast.

"This show is adorable," said Stoddard. "And the kids really add so much to this hilarious tale. I'm really proud of these kids and all they achieve. Watching them grow as actors is truly rewarding."

"Once Upon a Mattress" is the classic story of the "Princess and the Pea," told as audiences have never heard it before, Stoddard explained.

"Queen Aggravain is trying to find a true princess for her son Prince Dauntless the Drab," said Stoddard. "She makes each candidate go through ridiculous tests to qualify for the prince's hand in marriage. The queen's final test to select a real princess is conducted by placing a pea under 20 mattresses to see if the candidate is able to sleep or not because of a lump under her mattress."

This musical comedy tests the skills and abilities of the two casts, Stoddard said. But, she says, the children, like Jada Mack of Greenwood and Campbell Coleman of Fort Smith, rise to the challenge.

"I love being in the Academy of the Arts, said 11-year old Mack, who plays Lady Larken. "Being in 'Once Upon a Mattress' is an amazing experience. I just love being with everybody in our group. We learn so much every day."

Coleman, who is 10 years old and plays Sir Harry, has a similar take.

"I think it's one of the best experiences I've ever had," Coleman said "I love being a part of this show and look forward to coming to class every week."

The show assembles the talents of Stoddard as director, Jennifer Woodside Anderson of Fort Smith as choreographer and Sheila Mann, also of Fort Smith, as musical director.

Performers include:

Arkoma, Okla.: Ashley Turner.

Barling: Carly Austin.

Mulberry: Rylee Lewis.

Fort Smith: Kariman Alsein, Ashlyn Brown, Skye Calvillo, Campbell Coleman, Gabriella Collins, Michael Doss, Hailey Douglas, Leah Grace Fimple, Isabel Fuentes, Sadie Hanesworth, Zoe Hardin, Van Harris, Clayton Hartwig, Shelby Hartwig, Avery Laster, Brinlie Matte, Dana Mays, Michael Moreton, Breanna Padilla, Hayden Parker, Kaylee Riddle, Adyn Rink, Francesca Rossi, Jayson Toney, Carey Woodie and Ethan Wright.

Greenwood: Abby Denison, Jack Gaston, Olivia Gaston, Grant Huneycutt, Jada Mack, Zachary Rylee and Hannah Wheatley.

Dr. Rosilee Walker Russell of Fort Smith said she is thrilled to be the executive director of the Academy because it gives children and teens an opportunity to make a connection to the arts and to one another.

"The Academy provides a curriculum of activities geared to children and teens and currently offers a preschool MusikGarten program, art classes for elementary-age children, private music lessons and music theory classes, as well as instrumental, choral and theatre programs," Russell said.

Enrollment in the Academy consists of 420 students representing 71 schools from 22 districts as well as home school students.

All performances will be in Breedlove Auditorium. Academy Playerz will perform May 17 at 7 p.m. and May 18 at 2 p.m. Academy Playerz Too will perform May 18 at 7 p.m. and May 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 each for these performances and are available at the door or at the UAFS Box office in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center. Call 788-7300 for more ticket information. For more information on the performance, contact shannon.stoddard@uafs.edu or call administrative specialist Sarah Taylor, 479-788-7253.



Article by: Frank Kelly, Public Information Specialist
Photo(s) by: Corey S. Krasko, Photographer, Marketing and Communications, and Kevin Ledford, Student Photographer

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