Willamette University Presents "The Ash Girl"

Coming-of-Age Tale Explores Psyche
Willamette University Theatre presents "The Ash Girl," its second show of the 2006-07 season, Nov. 10, 11, 16, 17 and 18 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 12 and 19 at 2 p.m., with a preview Nov. 9 at 8 p.m. The performance will be in the Kresge Theatre at Willamette University.

"'The Ash Girl' is a modern retelling of the classic Cinderella story in which the Seven Deadly Sins wreak havoc on mankind," said theatre and dance professor Virginia Belt, who directs the play. "It is a wondrous story of the beauty and terror of finding the strength to confront the monsters in one's heart."

Written by Timberlake Wertenbaker, the play returns to the Central European roots of the fairy tale and its 1812 Grimm Brothers interpretation, exploring the conflicting emotions a teenage girl feels about her parents, sisters and boys, and about growing up to be a responsible and self-aware adult. Timberlake Wertenbaker has fashioned a beautiful story of the wonder and the terror of growing up, of and for our time.

"In a world filled with monstrous actions, there is something about fairy tales that reaches down and touches the core of our being, where many of these fearsome actions unite," Belt said. In Wertenbaker's thoughtful adaptation of the classic tale, familiar characters have a unique depth and emotion while contending with the monsters at their core: the seven deadly sins.

"In looking for a project on which Willamette University theatre and dance could collaborate, 'The Ash Girl' offered lyrical, heightened text, and unique characters and action that beckoned further dance interpretation -- the Ash Girl and the prince meet at a ball, after all," said Belt, who has danced professionally with such companies as the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre and American Festival Ballet. "In a sense it is a musical with no singing."

Willamette University Theatre is pleased welcome guest artist John Parnham, a stage makeup and prosthetics expert, to the production. Parnham has been working in special effects makeup for film, television and theatre since 1995. Recently, his work has been seen in the films "Creep," "Dark Morning," "The Lurking," "The Wish," "Bale Rue," the Holsten Pils beer commercial featuring the 450-year-old men, and the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. His work for "The Ash Girl" will enhance the production's fantastical landscape by turning some of the actors into human-animal hybrids.

The other technical elements of the production embrace the play's enchantment. Scene designer and theatre department chair Chris Harris will conceive the play's mystical landscape. Bobby Brewer-Wallin will invent the characters' otherworldly costumes, and fellow theatre faculty member Vikki McGuire will design the production's dreamlike lighting. "The Ash Girl" presents a remarkable opportunity for junior theatre major Ben Crop, who is creating the production's vibrant soundscape.

The company features Alex Britain, an undeclared freshman from Bellingham, Wash., as Otter; Kiri Dyken, a senior theatre major from Angels Camp, Calif., as the Ash Girl; Drew Foster, a senior theatre major from Portland, Ore., as Angerbird; Cory Goble, a sophomore theatre major from Las Vegas, Nev., as Amir; Laura Hoff, a junior theatre major from Fresno, Calif., as Judith; Sarah Jo Kendall, a sophomore theatre major from Moscow, Idaho, as Ruth; Eliza Leoni, a senior theatre major from San Francisco, Calif., as Zerha; Britt Lauer, a freshman theatre major from Danville, Calif., as Lust; Tara McLauchlan, a sophomore theatre and psychology major from Woodinville, Wash., as Mother; Ben Nockles, a senior theatre and math major from Gresham, Ore., as Paul; Lesli Okorn, a senior theatre major from Tigard, Ore., as the Fairy in the Mirror; Charlie Owen, a senior theatre major from Asheville, N.C., as Pridefly; Jason D. Panzer, a junior theatre major from Puyallup, Wash., as the Man in the Forest; Annie Rimmer, a junior theatre major from Portland, Ore., as Gluttontoad; Kelsey Scott, a freshman theatre and English major from Napa, Calif., as Slothworm; Alex Smith, an undeclared freshman from Honolulu, Hawaii, as Greedmonkey; Whitney Tenold, a senior rhetoric and media studies major from Spokane, Wash., as Envysnake; Amanda Washko, a freshman theatre major from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, as Sadness; and Laura Wheatman, a senior theatre and English major from Pleasanton, Calif., as Owl.

Dancers in the production include Marley Abel, a sophomore psychology major from Ashland, Ore.; Tessa Allen, an undeclared freshman from Davis, Calif.; Sara A. Barnes, a senior rhetoric and media studies major from Portland, Ore.; Gabriele Rose Blahnik, a freshman biology major from Arcata, Calif.; Alexandra Ninneman, an undeclared freshman from Taos, N.M.; Lauren Pressler, a junior history major from Berkeley, Calif.; Cara Saunto, a sophomore economics major from Seattle, Wash.; Theresa Somrak, a sophomore anthropology and Spanish major from Ketchikan, Alaska; and Angela Whitney, a senior politics major from Point Reyes, Calif.

To purchase tickets, contact the Willamette University Box Office at 503-370-6221 or reserve tickets by email at Opening night is $12 for general admission and $8 for students and seniors. Most other evening performances are $10 for general admission and $6 for students and seniors. Contact the box office for specific pricing and details. The Willamette campus is at 900 State Street in Salem. For more information contact the Theatre Department at 503-370-6222 or visit their website at