Youth theater takes stage

MONMOUTH -- The legend of King Arthur -- Excalibur, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table -- is one of the most well-known medieval stories.Countless movies, plays and books have been produced, all with their own version of the tale.Rob Harriman is daring to push the envelope of the legend even further with his latest stage production.The third annual Mid-Valley Community Children's Theater, directed by Harriman, brings "Arthur and Guinevere" to the Rice Auditorium outdoor stage at Western Oregon University on Saturday."It's not a conventional Camelot story. It takes place when Arthur and Guinevere are kids," Harriman said. "If you're a real stickler for Arthurian legend you might have some qualms about it. It breaks a lot of those rules. It's all legend anyway, so you can't take it too seriously."For whatever rules the play might break, it more than makes up for with commitment and community support.Harriman and his cast, 35 kids from first grade to eighth, have spent four to five days per week rehearsing since the beginning of June."For some of these families it's a big time commitment. They kind of can't leave town until the play is over," Harriman said. "It's a bit of a sacrifice."Harriman, together with his wife Barbara and a select group of parent volunteers, started meeting in February to plan for the summer production.The group received a $2,000 grant from the Polk County Cultural Coalition to pay for costumes, set design and props.Troy Eberly helped put the stage together Saturday. The theater cleverly used the same backdrop from last year's play.Eberly's two sons, Keith, 12, and Harrison, 11, have performed in the play the last two years and are back again for the third year."A lot of the dads are in scouts and highly involved. If we're available, we're here to help," Eberly said. "Every year they (Keith and Harrison) say they want to come back. I'm always impressed with the way they remember their lines. They get it faster than I could."_x0015_Parent volunteers like Eberly are pivotal for getting the production complete every year.Not only do they provide work and support, but they also provide the cast."It's really high quality stuff. It's like this little village gets together every evening and just hangs out," Harriman said. "They see the benefit. They see their kids up on stage having fun."The theater has been a huge hit with its actors since its first performance -- retaining many actors year to year.But the production hit a snag during auditions in early June when an intentional lack of promotion led to a small showing of boys to audition. So Harriman hit up the local Boy Scout troop for talent."We went to the Boy Scouts and said `Hey, who needs to earn a merit badge?' We managed to get enough boys who were willing to do it," Harriman said. "It was touch and go for a couple of weeks."Seven-year-old Henry Doellinger is one of the few actors performing for the first time in the theater, though he's not without prior acting experience."I did have one play at my school, MES (Monmouth Elementary School)," Doellinger said. "I played a bear in Billy Goats Gruff. It was pretty fun." The legend comes to life What: Mid-Valley Community Children's Theater production of "Arthur and Guinevere." When: Saturday, 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Where: Rice Auditorium outdoor stage, Western Oregon University, 345 N. Monmouth Ave., Monmouth. Admission: Free. For more information: www.facebook.com/midvalleycommunitychildrenstheater; email to mvcctheater@gmail.com.

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