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Mice run afoul of St. Nick in Children’s Theatre play

By Eric E. Harrison

This article was published November 29, 2012 at 3:10 a.m.


Diondre Wright (left) plays Donny, the Country Mouse, and Sarah Nicholson plays Wanda, the City Mouse, in City Mouse, Country Mouse, Christmas House at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre.

"City Mouse, Country Mouse, Christmas House"

Diondre Wright (left) and Sarah Nicholson rehearse a scene from "City Mouse, Country Mouse, Christmas House," based on Aesop's Fables, opening Nov. 30 at the Arkansas Arts Center Children's Theatre in Little Rock. (By Karen E. Segrave)
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— Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t learn something by attending a production at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre.

Until she saw If You Give a Mouse a Cookie on the Arts Center stage a few years ago, says Little Rock actress Sarah Nicholson, “I would have never thought you could be a mouse in a show.”

Sarah, 14 and a freshman at Little Rock Central High, is learning firsthand — or is that first-paw? — what it’s like to be a mouse in a show. She’s playing Wanda Mouse, the urban title character in City Mouse, Country Mouse, Christmas House, opening Friday at the Arts Center Children’s Theatre.

The show, a loose adaptation by Keith Smith of one of Aesop’s fables, will be on stage weekends through Dec. 16.

Diondre Wright, a 14-year-old Little Rock actor who is home-schooled, is also getting his first exposure to mouse-dom as Donny, the Country Mouse. Donny and Wanda get into some mischief and then must attempt one big act of kindness to get off Santa’s “naughty” list.

Though Diondre is a Children’s Theatre veteran (his most recent appearance was in the season-opener, Madeline and the Gypsies, in September and early October), “I haven’t been a title character before,” he says.

Sarah, whose last Children’s Theatre assignment was as a puppeteer in There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom in the spring of 2011, at least technically has had a title role: She played Benny, one of four Depression-era orphans, in 2007’s The Boxcar Children.

The two youngsters face an unusual challenge in this production: They don’t speak. All their lines will come via a recorded soundtrack.

“We have to act with our bodies,” mostly in elaborate pantomime, Sarah explains.

The cast also features Josh Isner as Grandfather Cockroach, Casey Labbate as Granny Mouse, Camille Boswell as Mama Mouse, Tess Frost as Mittens, Garrett Flood doubling up as Uncle Cal and Sammy the Centipede, Jillian Kuhl as June, Mark Hansen as Jim, Kate Kelly as Danni, Jeffrey Oakley as Phillip, Lily Jackson as Jess and Jhonika Wright as Aunt Mel.

Bradley Anderson is the director. Nikki Webster and Erin Larkin designed the costumes, which for the mice involve prosthetic nose-whisker-teeth face appliances and mouse-ear headgear.

City Mouse,

Country Mouse, Christmas House

7 p.m. Friday, 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 16, Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre, Arkansas Arts Center, MacArthur Park, 10th and Commerce streets, Little Rock

Sponsors: Landers Fiat; Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield

Tickets: $12

(501) 372-4000

Weekend, Pages 36 on 11/29/2012

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