When Avery was in grade one I read her Charlotte’s Web as a bedtime story over the course of several weeks. I loved sharing this classic children’s story about friendship with my daughter, and watching her excitement at Wilbur the pig’s triumph (escaping the axe, thanks to the web-spinning efforts of his spider friend), as well as her sadness over Charlotte’s inevitable death (though Avery was happy three of Charlotte’s spider babies decided to live in the Zuckermans’ barn).
So it was especially satisfying to sit beside Avery and her classmates on a school field trip this week and watch the tale come to life through Alberta Theatre Projects’ production of Charlotte’s Web (running through December 31). What made the experience even more enjoyable was the fact that one of her grade four classmates from Colonel Walker School, RubyJune Bishop, plays Fern Arable, and RubyJune’s parents star in the production as well.
It was Avery’s first time watching live theatre and she was captivated from the beginning, and even more so when Charlotte, played by the enchanting Manon Beaudoin, first descended down to her web from the barn rafters.
“I really like this Mommy!” Avery whispered to me as Charlotte spun mesmerizing circles around her web, spelling the words “Some Pig,” “Terrific,” “Radiant” and “Humble” to describe her bovine friend to save his life while her own was slipping away. Avery also loved “Uncle,” the fat, cowboy-hat wearing, Texan-inspired pig that threatens to take first prize at the fair.
After the performance there was a question-and-answer session between the audience and the actors (the theatre was full of school groups that day). Though the education outreach coordinator never called on anyone from Colonel Walker School, other children asked some great, totally kid, questions:
“Does anyone ever step on your tail?” one student asked Templeton (the rat). “All the time,” he replied.
“Isn’t it scary spinning from that cable?” another asked Charlotte. “At first it was, yes,” she said. “But then I got used to it. It’s really fun.”
“What’s your favourite part of the play?” someone asked Wilbur. “When I first meet Charlotte and when I do my ‘Radiant’ dance,” he said. This is where he executes the Charleston, the robot and then moon walks to prove that he is, indeed, radiant. It’s one of many funny moments.
“Why did Alberta Theatre Projects choose to do Charlotte’s Web out of all the classic children’s stories?” asked another student. “It reflects our values,” replied the education outreach coordinator.
It is a well done, heart warming story of friendship. And Avery was especially proud to see her friend RubyJune do such an amazing job.