Veteran teacher, director, author and the inspiration for Ms. Wingit of the nationally syndicated cartoon Stone Soup, Judy Wenger is a Eugene icon. And she’s directing again, with a gleeful adaptation of Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs for Rose Children’s Theatre.
During her 37 years in education, Wenger developed a theory of theater education that rests heavily on community and respect, at the expense of starpower.
“Everyone should be required to be in a play,” Wenger says. “The experience allows kids to gain confidence, appreciate language and experience how a story is put together. It’s about being a team player, not about who is the star.”
This ethic is evident in her upcoming production of Snow White. Every child has a line and is on stage for at least two scenes. Everyone, from the Wicked Witch to the talking trees, was called to special rehearsals to work on character. The lead role of Snow White is double-cast, and the stars take turns playing a woodland creature on their respective nights out of the spotlight.
Wenger says she’s enjoyed this particular experience, and with more than 100 shows under her belt, that’s saying something. “About a third of the cast is performing in their first play,” she notes of the actors, who range in age from 8 to 15. “The older ones have been great mentors for the younger ones.”
Finding a script that allows for lines and multiple entrances for 35 young actors required that Wenger get creative. “After reading at least six versions of the tale, I landed on one that allowed me to make some adaptations,” she says. Wenger uses the original tale as a jumping off point, allowing her cast to help shape the final product, including additional musical pieces and an actor-choreographed dance.
“It has been fun taking a classic fairy tale and tweaking it to be a little zany,” she says. “This is definitely not the Disney play. The result is a fun, sometimes funny show that asks the audience to play along with us.”
Rose Children’s Theatre’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs Feb. 20-22 at the Wildish Theatre in Springfield; $8-$10, tickets and info at 431-0444 or wkly.ws/1y4.