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BPA troupe plays idylls of a king

Fogell adapts Camelot legend to Playhouse stage.

Alaina Long and Pepper McCormick circle Kathryn McAtee, chanting the “Evil Song.”

“We will cast our evil, wicked treacherous spells on you,” they sing. “You will think your scary, awful, worst nightmare came true.”

Sakai Intermediate School fifth-grader Long and Odyssey eighth-grader McCormick, who play Morgana and Mordrid, respectively, in the BPA Theater School production “Arthur and Guinivere,” sport flowing black capes for the show’s dress rehearsal.

The garments billow as they circle McAtee, but director Steven Fogell wants more drama.

“Use those capes, that’s why you’ve got ‘em,” Fogell tells the actors. “Work those capes or I’ll take them away.”

The duo pick up the pace and animate the shiny material with arm movements – and the scene comes to life.

Instruction in the dramatic potential of costume is part of the larger effort, Fogell says, to teach the 35 student actors to use costume, body language and intonation to develop the fantasy characters of Fogell’s original script.

The “prequel” to the familiar Camelot legend features the meeting of Arthur, played by Woodward Middle School eight-grader Austin Josenhans, and Guinivere, played by Sakai sixth-grader Kelley McConnaughy.

“In this production, most of the characters are part of an enchanted world,” Fogell said. “My goal is for the kids to be able to step out of the boundary of a human character and take on the role of a fantasy character.”

The otherworldly mood of the play is strengthened by Shelley Long and Mark Soltys’ original score, eight songs in a blend of styles the pair dubbed “mystic rock.”

While some of the 35-member cast are neophytes, many are BPA veterans.

West Sound Academy sixth-grader Luke Rosenthal, who has been in several shows, finds playing Raven for “Arthur and Guinivere” a challenge because the character is morally ambiguous.

“I’ve been in a lot of plays, and this is a really cool one,” said Rosenthal, who dons a feathered headdress for the part. “I’m not exactly evil...my character is sort of a split personality.”

McCormick, who has often been cast as a BPA “bad guy,” has learned to invent an anti-social streak she doesn’t possess.

“In all the plays I’ve been in, I’ve been evil,” she said. “It’s fun being evil, because, like, I’m not that evil in normal life, so it’s the opposite of what I am.”

For Bainbridge High School sophomore Allie Kuntz, who plans to pursue a career in theater, the challenge is off-stage; assistant director Kuntz choreographed the play’s fight scenes.

Kuntz introduced the young actors to such basic moves as parries, thrusts and cuts with quarterstaves and swords. Then, she taught the group to combine them and integrate the sequences into the scenes.

The hardest part, Kuntz says, was getting the kids not to anticipate their opponent’s next move, because the fight should seem spontaneous.

Kuntz’ interest in stage combat was sparked by BPA classes in the art form last summer with Seattle instructor Paul Ray.

“It got me really interested,” she said. “Then Steven (Fogell) started incorporating a lot of stage combat in his productions, which has looked really awesome this entire year.”

The large-scale production of “Arthur and Guinivere” closes BPA’s spring Theater School season with flair, and a demonstration of the teachers’ skill.

“It’s a tricky balance, giving kids the confidence and pushing them, while maintaining a level of fun,” Long said.

“I think it’s the trickiest thing with teaching.”

* * * * *

Days of yore

l BPA’s first- through fourth-grade Theatre School production class performs “The Reluctant Dragon,” written by Steven Fogell and directed by Shelley Long and Deirdre Ray, 5 p.m. June 9 at the Playhouse. Admission by donation.

l BPA’s fifth- through 12th grade Theatre School production class p resents “Arthur and Guinevere,” 7:30 p.m. June 10 and 11, with a 3 p.m. matinee June 12. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for seniors/students, available at the Playhouse or by phone at 842-8569.

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