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Apple Hill Playhouse's 'Puss-in-Boots' encourages young actors to use imaginations

| Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Steph Chambers | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Nathaniel Lyons, 9, of Murrysville and Cameron Powell, 10, of Penn Township hold hands as Carolyn Jerz, 12, of Greensburg looks on during a rehearsal 'Puss in Boots” by Johnny Appleseed Children’s Theater in Delmont on Friday, July 25, 2014.
Steph Chambers | TRIB TOTAL MEDIA
Nathaniel Lyons, 9, of Murrysville kisses the hand of Cameron Powell, 10, of Penn Township as the rest of the cast looks on during a rehearsal 'Puss in Boots” by Johnny Appleseed Children’s Theater in Delmont on Friday, July 25, 2014.

There are “no adults allowed,” at least not onstage, as Apple Hill Playhouse concludes its Johnny Appleseed Children's Theatre summer season with a production of “The Truly Remarkable Puss-In-Boots.”

Andy Meholick of Pittsburgh is directing a cast of nine young actors, ages 9 to 14, in Patricia Clapp's adaptation of the classic tale about the swashbuckling cat with an attitude.

“We have put this show together with a healthy balance of rehearsing and game playing,” Meholick says. “I have never worked with such an enthusiastic cast before. I'm just trying to keep up.”

Carolyn Jerz, a 12-year-old, home-schooled seventh-grader from Greensburg plays the title role.

Her father, Dennis Jerz, an English faculty member at Seton Hill University, takes partial credit for his daughter's interest in being in the show. “Andy was in a couple of my literature classes,” he says, “and I took Carolyn to see Andy performing in several shows at Seton Hill.”

Carolyn agrees. “I had seen Andy in shows, and I admired his acting ability. When I found out he was directing this show, I thought it would be cool to work with him,” she says.

In the Apple Hill production, Puss in Boots has a series of adventures and a scary encounter with an ogre, played by Macy Kostovny. Puss persuades the ogre to adopt a mouse's form, which turns out to be a big mistake for the monster.

“Puss in Boots is very conceited, and she uses her magical power to get her master something that will make his snooty sisters jealous,” Carolyn says. “But she does have a ‘little kitty cat' side to her, too.”

Carolyn has performed at Seton Hill University as Rosella in a production of “Six Characters in Search of an Author.” She also was Mary Lennox in Stage Right's production of “The Secret Garden” and Alice in the company's home-school production of “Alice in Wonderland.” In December, she will play Young Estella in the Pict Classic Theater's production of “Great Expectations.”

Meholick says that the classic tale of “Puss-in-Boots” might not be a familiar story to some children. He admits the cat is probably best known to youngsters as a character from the “Shrek” film series.

“This show allows kids to use their imagination and laugh at the possibility of their furry friend one day saying ‘thank you' when they give it breakfast in the morning,” he says. “I hope everyone goes home and tries to get their cat or dog to talk to them, or go on adventures of their own in their living rooms.”

Also in the cast are Matthew Lyons, Maya Bhatnagar, Sarah Brammell, Addy Hildebrand, Nathaniel Lyons, Cameron Powell, Ryann Shirey and Paige Thatcher. Macy Kostovny is the stage manager.

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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