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'Snow White' retelling portrays a play thrown together in a bind

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Connor Darauskas, 13, of Stephens City, center, rehearses with cast members, (from left) Biz O’Keeffe, 15, left, of Winchester; Michael Starr, 18, of Linden; Meron Siira, 16, of Winchester; and Rachael Hazlett, 15, of Winchester in Winchester Little Theatre’s production of “Snow White.” — Rich Cooley/Daily

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Meron Siira, 16, left, of Winchester, plays the King and Rachael Hazlett, 15, of Winchester, plays the Evil Queen. — Rich Cooley/Daily

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Biz O'Keeffe, 15, left, of Winchester rehearses a scene as Snow White with Michael Starr, 18, of Linden, as the leader of the dwarfs. — Rich Cooley/Daily

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

When the Misdirected Theater Company fails to show up as promised to put on a production of "Snow White," theater staff Cynthia, Margaret, Roz, Larry and Jason are in a fix. A busload of children are about to arrive, and they have no stars for the show they promised.

Cue the improv.

In Winchester Little Theatre's WLT for Kids' production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," which begins Saturday, the show will go on, must go on -- one way or another.

Part of the Misdirected Theater Series, by Jack Neary, "It's a play within a play," said director Roxie Orndorff. "They all take on different characters."

Playing the six main characters will be 12 actors, double cast so they can rotate performances. Understudy Nathalie Bly will jump in as needed.

As Cynthia, Biz O'Keeffe, 15, and Gee Lee, 17, take the lead as Snow White.

"Cynthia is the kind of girl who wants things," Biz said at a recent rehearsal. "She nags her way into getting what she wants."

Playing the "sickly sweet, naive" Snow White at the same time is a change for Biz. who has been performing in her home school co-op since she was 8 or 9.

"I've been doing this my whole life," she said, but portraying two characters simultaneously -- Cynthia playing Snow White -- has challenged her skills.

In a year that offers two Hollywood movies each portraying very different Snow Whites, Biz hopes to put her own spin on the role of the runaway princess, based on the story by the Brothers Grimm.

"There's so many out right now," Biz said. She wants to give the audience something they've never seen before.

"Come with a lot of energy and ready to have fun, 'cause there's a lot of times we involve the audience," she said.

The WLT for Kids program is in its ninth year, but this year Orndorff and program director Sarah Gomez are trying something different, offering two shows instead of one this summer, and continuing "Snow White" into the fall so school groups can come see it at the theater.

"Snow White" will run through June 30, with two or three performances a day, and the second play, "Honk! Jr. The Musical," will run from July 21 to 28.

Then in September, "Snow White" will resume for two days, Orndorff said, "because this play has minimum ... it's essentially a bare stage that they dress during the show."

Elyse Kaderli and Rachael Hazlett, both 15, play Margaret, who rules as the Wicked Queen.

Margaret is an angry, bossy person, Rachael said, so it's not a big step for Margaret to fill the queen's shoes. She needs to be in charge, and Rachael said she feels Margaret doesn't really realize what she's doing is wrong.

"I'm sensing mommy issues," Rachael said. The Wicked Queen is like Margaret's evil side, which is why she's good at playing it, she said.

"Acting is new to me in general," said Rachael, a sophomore at Sherando High School in Stephens City. She's getting used to performing, though, and said she and her counterpart Kaderli feed off of each other's energy.

Kaderli was in "Bye, Bye Birdie" at school, but she said playing a villain isn't as tough as she'd thought.

"I feel like it's pretty easy at times," said the rising Millbrook sophomore. "I try to, like, imagine Cruella de Vil.

Still, her previous theater experience has helped her only so far.

"We never broke the fourth wall," she said. "In this play, the fourth wall is gone. Took a wrecking ball to it."

To the audience, Rachael said, "Interact with us, because we want you to interact with us."

Meron Siira and Briana Adhikusuma play Roz, who plays the King; Tyler Hamilton and Michael Starr play Jason, who assumes the role of leader of the dwarfs.

But Marcus Adhikusuma and J. Connor Barauskas, who play Larry the sound guy, have the most characters to rein in during the play's duration.

"I would say I like playing the narrator the most because I love telling the story, a lot," said Marcus, 18. He and Conner also play the huntsman, the wizard and the magic mirror.

Marcus has watched both new Snow White movies -- "Mirror, Mirror" and "Snow White and the Huntsman" -- and hopes to learn from them as well.

The most difficult part for him is switching from one role to the next, sometimes consecutively.

"Have to change voice and body language," he said.

No performance of "Snow While" would be complete without the prince, but the theater crew have their work cut out for them in obtaining the talents of Warren, played by Anthony Rezabek and Joe Davet.

"He actually comes in as a UPS character, and they grab him to be the hero," Orndorff said.

The play, she said, is "very good for having to go back and forth, back and forth with two casts, but their patience has been phenomenal."

"It's awesome," Marcus said. "You should come see it. Kids will love it, parents will love it too."

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" will play at Winchester Little Theatre from June 23 to 30, with performances on weekdays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. or 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., and on weekends at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. For more information, call the theater at 662-3331, or visit wltonline.org.

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