Kids can visit ‘Secret Garden’ at library

Special to Fort Mill TimesJuly 24, 2013 

COURTESY OF BRIGHT STAR TOURING THEATRE

  • Want to go? “The Secret Garden” will be presented: • 1, 2 and 4 p.m. July 30, Fort Mill Public Library • 10 a.m., 1:30 and 4 p.m. July 31, York County Library, Rock Hill • 10:30 a.m. Aug. 1, Clover Public Library • 2:30 and 4 p.m. Aug. 1, York Public Library • 10:30 a.m. Aug. 2, Lake Wylie Public Library

— Young Fort Mill residents will help Mary bring the garden back to life.

The Bright Star Touring Theater will present its production of “The Secret Garden” on Tuesday, July 30 at The Fort Mill Public Library.

The play is open to the public and is being put on in celebration of the library’s Summer Reading Program, said Erin Schmidt, Bright Star manager and Secret Garden director.

The play ties into this year’s reading program theme, “Dig Into Reading,” Schmidt said.

“We hope the show encourages them to read,” she said about audience members.

The theater’s 45-minute adaptation of the classic children’s book follows the story of Mary Lenox, who is sent to live with her uncle in a dreary mansion. With some friends, Mary finds a secret garden and works to bring it back to life, bringing happiness to her own life in the process.

She said the play teaches young audiences about kindness and friendship.

“The story is about the strengthening of the human spirit and how much change we can create in our world,” Schmidt said. “It’s a heart-warming story.”

The theater’s adaptation adds humor with vibrant characters and audience interaction.

Audience members will have the chance to answer questions and join in the play throughout the show. At the end of the show, audience members will help plant seeds, magically bringing the garden back to life.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Schmidt said.

Bright Star Theater is a group of professional actors that presents various shows at libraries, schools and museums across the country. They are regular guests at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. and will be visiting the U.S. Embassy in Moscow this fall.

In each performance, two actors play the various characters. For this performance, Mary is played by Maggie Lea. Alec Shull plays many characters in the show, including Colin Craven, Mary’s wheelchair-bound cousin.

The acting duo have been with Bright Star since early June. They are both fine arts students at the University of North Carolina in Greensboro, where they auditioned for Bright Star’s summer tour.

Lea, 20, will graduate in May, and Alec, 22, is a sophomore.

“The Secret Garden” is one of three shows the duo will perform this summer.

Both actors said the best part of their job is seeing the audience’s reactions to the play.

“We can never guess how the children will react to things,” Lea said. “It’s really fun.”

Shull enjoys bringing life to a variety of characters in the show — even putting on a dress to take on the role of Mrs. Medlock, the grumpy head of the manor’s servants.

“I try to make it so (the audience) can distinctly tell that it’s a different character,” he said. “That’s one of my favorite parts.”

Shull, from Raleigh, N.C., started acting with his local community theater at age 6.

“I was fortunate to grow up in a town where theater was a very big thing,” he said.

As he sees their faces light up, Shull said his goal is to get at least one child interested in theater.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” he said.

The duo hopes the audience is both entertained and inspired by the show.

“There are a lot of surprises,” Lea said. “We’re having a blast doing it.”

Bright Star’s summer tour will end Aug. 2.

Schmidt hopes the theater will be invited back to Fort Mill in the future and that people enjoy the show.

“We hope to see as much of the community there as we can and that they have a lot of fun,” she said.

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