'Anne of Green Gables' to open Friday
by Marie Nesmith
Mar 15, 2011 | 1898 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeff Williams helps construct the set of ACT I’s “Anne of Green Gables” at The Grand Theatre.
MARIE NESMITH/The Daily Tribune News
MARIE NESMITH/The Daily Tribune News
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As the co-director for Allstars Community Theatre Inc.'s upcoming production, Angie Alexandersen is delighted to bring L.M. Montgomery's coming-of-age story, "Anne of Green Gables," to the Cartersville stage. Mistakenly sent to live with Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, an aging brother and sister, the character of Anne Shirley is an 11-year-old orphan who wins over their hearts with her spirited and melodramatic personality.

"Anne is a little girl who's had to take care of herself. She's a little fireball at times. It's a story where the underdog wins out and wins the love of the whole town," said Alexandersen, who first became involved with ACT I when her daughter landed a part in "Fiddler on the Roof" in 2003. "And [she] winds up [being] super smart, gets a college education, gets a scholarship and [then] chooses to stay and help Marilla ... So it's just one of those kind of stories that you like looking at and like watching because you know that something good is going to happen to this child."

To be performed Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., "Anne of Green Gables" is being presented at The Grand Theatre, 7 N. Wall St. in Cartersville. Comprised of a cast of about 25 members, the play's lead actors include Justine Lookenott and Carol Anne Williams as Anne Shirley, Derrick Chapman as Gilbert Blythe, Kimberly Bagnell as Marilla Cuthbert, Josh Putman as Matthew Cuthbert, and Hannah Craton as Rachel Lynde. Sharing the directing duties with Alexandersen is Kristy Montgomery, a 21-year-old junior at Kennesaw State University, who started her association with ACT I as an actor about seven years ago.

Since forming in 2002, ACT I -- a theater group for adults and youth ages 12 to 20 -- has performed about 28 productions. The group helps its members gain an appreciation of the theater by encouraging them to sample various responsibilities, from set design to acting and directing.

"The goal is just to provide an opportunity for everybody to be involved in theater," ACT I President Nina Binkley said. "In high school ... the arts were getting kind of forgotten for a while. Actually, I believe the high schools have gotten better about bringing the arts back in, which is exciting for me. But also there's a lot of homeschoolers that would not get the opportunity if we didn't have ACT I. Plus, there's a lot of kids that are really shy about being involved and being up on the stage. But with ACT I, we become kind of a family to them and it's just amazing how we've seen some kids who were so shy they would barely look you in the eye. Then the next thing you know, when they're on stage they become that other character, and they are capable of getting up there and doing all kinds of great things.

"So I think some kids who maybe wouldn't even audition for a show at [their] high school because they don't think they can do that well, they may start out with our tech crews and then they become more comfortable and the next thing you know they are acting too. It doesn't always go that way but they feel safer I think because it's a smaller group, maybe they know some of the other kids from church or [elsewhere] and now they are acting on the stage. I want them to feel self-[confident]. I want them to feel capable. I want them to feel good about themselves. That's what I want them to do and know that we support them and we love them and we think they're wonderful."

Like other theater groups, ACT I is trying to survive the economic downturn that has led four theaters recently to close within a 40-mile radius of Cartersville.

"It's been hard," Binkley said. "[For] anybody, not just me, but all the other theater groups in town, attendance is down but if we don't get [more ticket] sales then the program will end. We don't want to charge people to be involved in the shows -- for the kids to be involved -- so we ask them to sell tickets. But it's just harder and harder because we have to charge so much to actually use The Grand.

"So I would just encourage people -- don't forget to support the arts because it is so important for these kids. A lot of these kids are never going to be the track runner or even a band member. This is what these kids want to do and they need to be supported just like the basketball player and the football player. It seems like communities always support the sports but they don't always support other things, and we just would love to see a great turnout for this."

Tickets for "Anne of Green Gables" are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. To purchase tickets prior to the play or for more information, call 770-386-7343 or visit The Grand Theatre's ticket office Monday through Friday from 8 to 11 a.m. and 12:30 to 5 p.m.