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Theater

Troll gets a feminine look in Apple Hill Playhouse's 'Straw Into Gold'

| Friday, July 20, 2012, 9:04 p.m.
(from left) Carsyn Rivardo, age 8 of Jeannette, Colton Pikovsky, age 11 of Penn Township, Sabina Balsamo, age 17 of Jeannette and Jonathan Burkhart, age 14 of Harrison City rehearse for the Apple Hill upcoming kids show, 'Straw into Gold' at the American Legion, Delmont, PA on Thursday evening, July 12, 2012.  Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
(from left) Carsyn Rivardo, age 8 of Jeannette, Colton Pikovsky, age 11 of Penn Township, Sabina Balsamo, age 17 of Jeannette and Jonathan Burkhart, age 14 of Harrison City rehearse for the Apple Hill upcoming kids show, 'Straw into Gold' at the American Legion, Delmont, PA on Thursday evening, July 12, 2012. Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
(from left) Colton Pikovsky, age 11 of Penn Township and Carsyn Rivardo, age 8 of Jeannette rehearse for the Apple Hill upcoming kids show, 'Straw into Gold' at the American Legion, Delmont, PA on Thursday evening, July 12, 2012.  Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review
(from left) Colton Pikovsky, age 11 of Penn Township and Carsyn Rivardo, age 8 of Jeannette rehearse for the Apple Hill upcoming kids show, 'Straw into Gold' at the American Legion, Delmont, PA on Thursday evening, July 12, 2012. Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review

From the subject of a Brothers Grimm fairy tale to a character in DreamWorks' “Shrek” movies, Rumpelstiltskin has entertained children in storybooks, in film and on stage.

The nasty little troll pops up again at Apple Hill Playhouse, in a production by Sally Netzel, titled “Straw Into Gold.”

And, this time around, the troll has a female persona.

Grace Bender, a sixth-grade student at Penn Middle School, Penn-Trafford School District, plays Rumpelstiltsksin.

She has performed in several other community-theater productions, most recently as Slue Foot Sue in “Pecos Bill and Slue Foot Sue Meet the Dirty Dan Gang” at the Theater Factory in Trafford, and as an orphan in Penn-Trafford High School's 2012 production of “Oliver.”

Meghan O'Halloran, who was asked to direct “Straw Into Gold,” when a previous director had to bow out, says she performed onstage with Bender in “Treasure Island” at Theatre Factory.

When the young actor auditioned at Apple Hill, O'Halloran says, “I told the original director of this show that if he was open to a female Rumpel, she would be fantastic. She has a lot of experience with children's theater, and she takes direction very well. She is a very quick learner.”

Danielle Perino, a seventh-grade student at Greensburg-Salem Middle School, is making her theater debut as Melinda. She says her friends encouraged her to audition for the play, and she is having fun portraying the kitchen maid who wins the heart of a prince.

As the fairy tale goes, Prince Philip has a crush on Melinda and tells his mother, the Queen, that Melinda can spin straw into gold. The Queen tells her she can have the prince as her husband if she is able to complete the spinning task successfully. Rumpelstiltskin offers to help Melinda, but has his own underhanded motive in mind.

“Danielle is an adorable, innocent little actress,” O'Halloran says. “She plays the princess very well, and is a joy to work with.”

The director says two other young actors help to make “Straw Into Gold” special.

“The Minister and the chamberlain are really funny parts. They have some physical comedy between them, and their lines are terribly cute,” she says.

Eight-year-old Carsyn Rivardo portrays the chamberlain. The Minister is played by 12-year-old Colton Pikovsky, a Penn-Trafford student.

O'Halloran says she has added a few modern touches to liven up the show, “and I think that the kids will really get into it.”

She just finished directing “Cool Suit,” an updated version of “The Emperor's New Clothes,” for Johnny Appleseed Children's Theatre at Apple Hill.

“I grew up doing children's theater, and I love the audience reaction,” she says. “You can do something completely silly that means nothing, and kids eat it up. As long as we are having fun, and using as much physical comedy as possible, the audience stays involved.”

Candy Williams is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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