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Arts & Entertainment

Gemini's interactive 'Snow White' gets kids on the stage

| Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Snow White enchanting Pittsburgh children onstage might have seven official dwarfs on her cast list, but she will end up with enough adoring little ones following her during each performance to fill a cottage.

Gemini Theater Company's production of a musical "Snow White," director Dennis Palko says, almost duplicates the classic Disney tale of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" yet adds an interactive twist by involving the children in the 100-seat audience and bringing them onstage.

"It's very highly interactive, so the kids are not bored," Palko says. "We encourage the kids to participate so they're not just sitting and watching. That keeps their focus much longer than if they were just sitting and watching a play."

Boys and girls, mostly between ages 2 and 12, put on masks and chiffon scarves to play the animals -- mostly birds, deer and bunnies -- in the forest where Snow White gets lost. They help her during many tasks, including finding her way through the woods, finding a place to stay and helping her clean the dwarf cottage. Snow White simply utters a line, and the "animals" scurry to get moving.

"The kids use their imaginations," says Palko, whose cast comes from the community and the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Downtown. "It's amazing how they just pick up on it and help out. Sometimes, they get very shy, but it's our job to bring things to life for them and to have them play an active role in the story."

This version of Snow White is perfect for children, because the queen is not as vicious, and the play, therefore, is not as scary as other versions sometimes are to young children, Palko says. His and Cataldi's version also deepen the definition of the famous phrase "fairest of them all" from simply beautiful to virtuous, teaching a lesson about character, he says.

This play adds a modernized twist by replacing the original dwarfs' names with Giggles, Grumps, Dinky, Lazy, Shy, Stutters and Sneezer. Grumps and his chumps won't be singing the recognizable "Heigh-Ho." New music -- written by Lani Cataldi, musical director and associate artistic director -- is replacing the classics from the Disney movie. Actors and actresses sing the songs with a CD playing background instrumentation, Palko says.

Additional Information:

Details

'Snow White'

When: 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, through April 4. Special picnic is held at noon, where children can get their picture taken with Snow White.

Admission: $8; $16 for play and picnic.

Where: Gemini Theater, Point Breeze.

Details: (866) 243-6460 or www.geminitheater.org .

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