WEIRTON - Striplight Theatre will present "Fairy Tale Courtroom," by Dana Proulx, at 7 p.m. Saturday and July 5 and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday and July 6 at Weir High School's Milton J. Weinberg Theatre located at 100 Red Rider Road.
As part of that performance, Striplight Theatre will offer special shadow interpreting performances for the hearing impaired at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. July 5. Striplight Theatre is one of the only theatre groups, either professional or community, to offer shadow interpreting.
Traditionally, a sign language interpreter will stand off to the side of the stage, which may cause the hearing impaired to either miss part of the interpretation or part of the action on stage. In shadow interpreting, multiple interpreters are on stage, interpreting and performing alongside the actors.
THE CAST – The Striplight Theatre cast and crew will bring the comedy-spoof “Fairy Tale Courtroom,” by Dana Proulx, to life Saturday at Weir High School. The show follows the antics of the Wicked Witch and Big Bad Wolf as they are put on trial for their misdeeds. —Summer Wallace-Minger
"We are really excited to offer this to the community," said Director Jeffrey Holmes.
In order to have a seamless performance, shadow interpreters must practice with the cast and have special blocking in order to be near the actors but not interfering with the actors' movement.
Michelle Harris (Little Red Riding Hood) will, in addition to performing, be shadow interpreting.
Harris started acting while a student at Weir High School, but after graduation, marriage and a child and traveling as a military wife, acting fell to the wayside. After the death of Ashley Scott, who was Harris' friend and involved with the founding of Striplight, Harris reconnected with many of her high school friends. Through those connections, she became involved with Striplight and was the sign language interpreter for the theatre company's production of "Gypsy."
As the daughter of a hearing-impaired mother, Tammy Harris, she said she wants to make theater interpretation - especially shadow interpretation - her career. Her mother-in-law, Joy Longstreth, also is hearing-impaired. As part of her journey to becoming a shadow interpreter, she is studying American Sign Language at the Community College of Allegheny County and plans to see certification as an interpreter.
Harris explained that shadow interpretation is available in very few places, including professional theaters in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago and California.
"I'm very excited about this, and the main reason is this a great play geared toward children," she said. "It's great to have an opportunity to share this (with the hearing-impaired community and children)."
She will be joined by two other CCAC students and a University of Pittsburgh sign language teacher. Students Casey Noga and Jessica Mock and instructor Heather Gray will assist Harris in shadow interpreting.
As a shadow interpreter, she combines her two passions - acting and sign language.
"I don't have to memorize (the lines), because I'm interpreting as they speak," she said. "But I do have to be in character."
Kylie Gianni, 7, and Garrett Cessna, 10, will return to the stage for the second time after previously performing in Striplight's first production, "Gypsy."
Gianni, the daughter of Ashley Gianni of Weirton, and Cessna, the son of Victoria and Don Cessna of Weirton, are students at Studio B, formerly Lisa's Academy of the Arts, and were scouted by Director Jeffrey Holmes for Striplight's production of "Gypsy." Gianni appeared as the Balloon Girl, and Cessna was a Newsboy.
"Jeff came to our dance studio and scouted for dancers for the play," said Cessna, a Follansbee Middle School seventh-grader who studies jazz, tap, ballet, acrobatics and lyrical dance.
"He called and said the play was coming up and would we sign up for it," said Gianni, a Weirton Elementary School second-grader who studies jazz, tap, ballet and acrobatics.
The duo will perform as brother-and-sister Hansel and Gretel and dance and perform with a Germanic accent.
"(The accent) was very organic," said Director Jeffrey Holmes. "They just came up with it themselves."
Although Cessna counted "Hansel and Gretel" as his favorite fairy tale, Gianni's list was lengthy. The pair will be among the prosecution's witnesses.
Carly Balog, the daughter of Amy and Joe Balog of Follansbee, has been involved in theater for five years, but also was a member of the "Gypsy" cast, playing Young Louise.
"I've been around acting for a long time," said Balog, a Brooke High School junior whose mother, Amy Balog, also is participating in the production.
"She attended her first show when she was 1 month old," said Amy Balog. "She was back stage in her car seat carrier.
In addition to participating in productions at Brooke High and with Striplight, Balog also has performed at the Brooke Hills Playhouse. She also sings with Brooke High's Madrigal Choir, where she is the first alto.
Performing in a play that includes so many child actors brings both special challenges and joys, she said.
"It can be stressful if their playing around, but when they're paying attention and doing what they're supposed to do, it's really fun," she said. "I don't really (see herself as a mentor), but I try to do the best I can to help them out."
One of her favorite aspects of the play is the audience interaction, she said.
The cast includes: Kendra Wickham, Enchanted Fairy; Dave Zaneski, Baliff; Carly Balog, District Attorney; Owen Crowley, the Boy Who Cried Wolf; Emily Little, the Three Little Pigs; John Ward, Granny and Prince Charming; Jo Kinkade, Snow White; Kylie Gianni, Gretel; Garrett Cessna, Hansel; Jordan Calandros, Dorothy; Amy Dalton, Scarecrow; Hannah Crawley, Sleeping Beauty; Ray Seifert, Judge; Jeffrey Holmes, Big Bad Wolf; Josh Balog, Chef and Flying Monkey; Jillian Perito, Badger and Mirror; and Victoria Perito, Defense Attorney.
The nonprofit theater group's primary goal is to give back to the community through a variety of projects, promoting the arts within the Tri-State Area and providing a safe outlet for the area young. The group's motto is "Off the Streets, On the Stage and In Positive Light."
The company has pledged to do three-production seasons each year. "Fairy Tale Courtroom" is the group's second performance.
The group facilitates a working and mentoring relationship between area artists and theater professionals and young adult and child performers, primarily through the theatre group's relationship with Weir High School and Ray Seifert, Weir High music and drama teacher. Collaborating with the theater group offers an opportunity to Weir High students interested in theater, because the cost to stage multiple productions is prohibitive, Seifert said. In addition, the children have the opportunity to work with theatre veterans and learn from them. The group hopes to eventually work with several interested area schools and other theatre group, said Director Jeffrey Holmes, who has lived and worked as an actor in New York City and obtained his Equity Card. He has taught, mentored and directed for several organizations.
"We chose 'striplight' as a name, because it's metaphor for what we want to happen," said Holmes, explaining striplights are colored lights used in tandem to create on-stage effects. "When they shine in sync, they light up the stage. We want the entire community to come together and shine together to light up the stage. All the theatrical groups should be working together - it's the kids that matter. If we work together, they can have a great education in the arts."
Striplight Theatre will hold a pancake breakfast fundraiser from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. July 5. The cast will be serving and interacting with guests in costume and in character, and children are encouraged to wear their own fairy tale costumes. The cost is $5 per person. Tickets are available by calling (412) 628-4640 or (304) 527-4493.