Thursday, January 31, 2013

Unapologetically Anastasia

Anastasia costume design by Jessica Olson.
By Kimberly Colburn

Ten-year-old Anastasia Krupnik wants to be a writer someday. She keeps a journal and faithfully records her ever-changing, innermost likes and dislikes along with poems, drawings, and whatever else might strike her fancy. She’s intuitive and precocious, but not always the best listener.

Already struggling with a teacher she doesn’t like, Anastasia is having one of her worst days ever at school as the play begins. She’s worked super-hard on her poem for Creativity Week. First Robert and then Traci read their poems out loud to the class. Even though she thinks their poems aren’t any good, Anastasia realizes hers is very different from their poems. Of course, awful Mrs. Westvessel calls on Anastasia next.

Trapped, Anastasia reads her poem as quickly and softly as she can. Mrs. Westvessel asks her to repeat it, in a nice big voice, so she gives her beloved poem the best read that she can. After all, her father is a professional poet who has published books and everything. She gets a failing grade, though—because the assignment was to write a rhyming poem.

Woefully, she makes her way home to tell her parents. As parents go, they are pretty cool. In addition to her poet father, her mom’s a painter and they all live in an artist’s loft with lots of charm (but no elevator). At dinner, she carefully tries to broach the touchy subject. When she gives her poem to her father to read, he finds that the “F” at the top just needs a few more letters after it. Namely, an “a-b-u-l-o-u-s.” Anastasia’s relief is brief, because the next bit of news she gets rocks her world even more than a failing grade. Her parents are going to have a baby.

Anastasia’s 10th year of life continues on its eventful course as she contemplates converting to Catholicism, gets to know her Grandmother, falls in love, and prepares for the inevitable baby nuisance.

Working from Lois Lowry’s popular Anastasia Krupnik book series, playwright Meryl Friedman captures the spirit of the novels and the charming qualities of the protagonist. The portrait of this young girl’s life, with her semi-bohemian parents, is honest and unafraid of a realistic portrayal of life from an intelligent 10-year-old’s perspective. Children and adults alike can relate to Anastasia’s struggle to come to terms with her impending brother and the mix of emotions she has as she figures out where she came from, who she is, and what her place is in the family. “I love the character of Anastasia because there's a little bit of the outsider in all of us,” explains director Casey Stangl. “I admire her courage and love watching her find her own voice.”

Stangl has assembled a cast of SCR veterans—Emily Eiden, Jennifer Parsons, and Elia Saldana—along with a couple of new faces to SCR stages—Ann Noble and Geoffrey Wade.

“The cast is amazing,” says Stangl, “fun, talented people who love the material and the characters they play.” The design team includes Keith Mitchell, sets; Jessica Olson, costumes; Jeremy Pivnick, lights; and Jeff Polunas, sound.

Meet the Cast of Anastasia Krupnik

The cast in Meryl Friedman’s adaptation of Lois Lowry’s Anastasia Krupnik is as funny and sassy as the play’s title character; maybe it’s because they’re a bit offbeat as well.

Emily Eiden
Ann Noble
Geoffrey Wade
Jennifer Parsons
Elia Saldana

Emily Eiden is Anastasia. She’s been in several SCR Theatre for Young Audiences shows, including Junie B. in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells! and A Year with Frog and Toad. She also was featured in Taking Steps. She loves being a storyteller and found inspiration from her great-great grandmother who was a children’s author. Eiden says her job is to bring to life characters from book and script pages.

Ann Noble makes her SCR debut as Katherine Krupnik. Most recently, she played Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth. Her home theatre company is The Antaeus Company. When she’s not acting, she’s writes scripts for plays, TV and movies; a lot of what she’s done has been webcast. She turned to acting in high school with the encouragement of great teachers.

Geoffrey Wade thinks it’s great to be a poet in Anastasia Krupnik. You’ll see him as Myron Krupnik and Robert. He’s busy on the television front, in “Scrubs,” “Numb3rs,” “Law & Order” and “NCIS.” He says, “while TV is cool, acting in the theatre is more fun because we get to hear you laugh.”

Jennifer Parsons is well-known to SCR audiences, most recently she was Mrs. Cratchit in the seasonal classic, A Christmas Carol. Among other productions, she’s been in: The Borrowers, James and Giant Peach and Sideways Stories from Wayside School. She’s looking forward to taking on the roles of Anastasia’s grandmother and Mrs. Westvessel. She knows that “all older people were younger people once.”

Elia Saldana began her acting career as a dancing bear and Christmas carol singer. She has, of course, moved on! She’s been in SCR’s Jane of the Jungle, and also was in a touring production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story and danced in Westside Story. She is a voice artist for cartoons, too.

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