The children's story "A Little Princess" is set in 1890’s Victorian England, and follows Sara Crewe who is sent from India, where she was born, to a private school in London when her mother dies. She is banished to the garret when news arrives of her father's lost fortune and his death. With creative imagination and optimism, Sara survives to become an inspiration for girls and boys everywhere. The Aldersgate Church Community Theater (ACCT) is presenting the play from July 7 to 23.
The classic drama is based on the children's novel published in 1905 by Frances Hodgson Burnett with a theater adaptation by Lauren Nichols. It has been made into several films, including one in 1917 with Mary Pickford; another in 1939 with Shirley Temple; and films produced in Russia and the Philippines.
Director Corey Latta Bales said the book was one of her favorites growing up. "It is so well told; and the message is so relevant to any time period," she said. "Sara holds onto kindness and courage even through a very dark situation, and even continues to extend that kindness to others to better their lives during her own trials."
She added: "I think that her story is an important reminder to all of us — even when life throws us a curve ball we can still continue to spread our light in the world."
As the director, her biggest challenge has been the number of locations they visit throughout the play. "Finding ways to create all these distinct rooms and places without slowing the show down with long scene changes has been tricky," she said.
Producer Jen Price decided to produce the show because she has worked with several of the ACCT children's musicals and thought this would be a fun new adventure to take on. "I also wanted to work with Corey Bales, so as soon as I found out that she was directing I jumped at the opportunity," she said.
Marilyn Pifer plays the role of Miss Minchin, the no-nonsense proprietress of a boarding school for young upper-class girls in Victorian-era England. "She imposes strict discipline both on the pupils and on her underpaid, overworked staff. Miss Minchin is feared by the students and not much loved by anyone," she said.
The challenge she said was to be careful to protect her voice, as Miss Minchin is easily angered and raises her voice quite a bit. "OK, I'll say it — she yells a lot," she said.
She hopes the audience will be inspired by the story to persevere in overcoming their own trials, no matter how difficult they may seem. "And, of course, that they enjoy the show," she said.
Katherine Kailey plays the role of Sara Crewe, a kind and compassionate person who is not afraid to stand up to injustice. She wants the audience not to feel like they're watching a play, "but to be lost in this beautiful story and to find it as heartwarming as I did," she said.
She said her biggest challenge was memorizing all of the lines, and trying to best interpret what her character was thinking or feeling when she speaks so that she can deliver her lines in the most believable way.
Logan Price plays the role of Jessie, a mean girl who is always with her best friend Lavinia. "As the show goes on, Jessie starts to become less and less mean," she said.
She too said one of her challenges was memorizing all of her lines because this is her first role with a good amount of lines. And she hopes the audiences appreciate the beauty of the story.
Tom Kearney plays two characters in the play: the first is M. DeFarge, a French teacher who is a happy soul who enjoys teaching the girls French. The second is Mr. Carrisford, who is Ralph Crewe's (Sarah's father's) best friend. "He has suffered from 'jungle fever' and had a nervous breakdown from the stress of financing a diamond mine in India," he said. "He has taken a huge risk and it has taken its toll. He is tormented by his past behavior toward Ralph Crewe and spends every waking hour trying to find 'The Little Princess.'"
He said he hopes the audience is taken through a journey that begins with the sadness of separation, new-found friendships and rivalries, tragedy, and ultimately hope for a better life. "Redemption of one's situation in life is always just around the corner if you will persevere in the struggle," he said.
Directed by Corey Latta Bales and produced by Jennifer Price and Austin Fodrie, "A Little Princess" runs July 7, 8, 14, and 21 at 8 p.m. and July 9, 15, 16, 22, and 23 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 - $15 and are available online at www.acctonline.org. Check the web-site for additional events connected with "A Little Princess." ACCT performs at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, located at 1301 Collingwood Road, Alexandria, VA 22308.