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'A Child's Guide to Heresy' offers fantasy, no special meanings

| Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011

Don't go to Kendrew Lascelles' play "A Child's Guide to Heresy" in search of deep allegorical meanings or hidden social agendas.

"It's just a story. I wrote it purely as an entertainment," Lascelles says. "It's a fairy story for adults."

Lascelles' play will have its world premiere on Friday, as the first production of the 2011-12 season of The REP, Point Park University's professional theater company.

The story of lost innocence and an epic dark battle between good and evil takes place in 13th-century Yorkshire, England, an era in which many people -- even the rich, the educated and the powerful -- believed in the power of spells and incantations to conjure angels or demons who would do their bidding.

Alchemists, nobles, commoners and even clerics were willing to risk the power of the church and the penalties for heresy in their search for power, knowledge or wealth.

When 9 year-old Tom is unwittingly recruited by the powerful bishop, Constantus, to help conjure the angel Uriel, it begins a decade-long adventure that involves disguises and encounters with a kindhearted alchemist, a beautiful witch and her mysterious daughter.

Lascelles is a veteran writer who makes his home in North Hollywood and has written for a variety of media.

In addition to writing for television shows such as "The Smothers Brothers Summer Show" and "The Dean Martin Show," he was the screenwriter for two movies, Arthur Miller's "Focus," which starred William Macy and Laura Dern, and "The Aryan Couple," also known as "The Couple," which starred Martin Landau. He also wrote for, helped choreograph and performed in the musical revue "Wait a Minim!" that toured South Africa, Rhodesia and London before it opened on Broadway in 1966, where it ran for 456 performances.

Lascelles also will play Tannegut, Archbishop of York, in The REP's production that Robert A. Miller will direct.

The Pittsburgh Playhouse's Rauh Theatre has been adapted to accommodate the play's numerous scenes that range from peasant cottages to the bishop's private chambers, deep inside a wolf-infested forest and into an alchemist's laboratory within a stalactite-decorated cavern, Lascelles says.

"We've done quite a job on it. We have built a split-level set and extended the theater on one side to create the cathedral, alchemist's den and forest (settings) with lights and projections," he says. "There are wonderful special effects."

Lascelles has given thought to the play's afterlife.

"I think it would make a really good movie," he says. "I would like to work on a screenplay."

Additional Information:

'A Child's Guide to Heresy'

Produced by: The REP

When: Thursday through Sept. 25 with performances at 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays

Admission: $24-$27; $15 preview tickets tonight; pay what you will for 2 p.m. matinee this Saturday

Where: Rauh Theatre, Pittsburgh Playhouse, 222 Craft Ave., Oakland.

Details: 412-392-8000 or website

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