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Night Howl
By Karen Reardanz

[whitespace] Erin Andette, Nadya Wynd, Amy Pine, Lena Pine, Eleanor Scott
George Sakkestad

Hop, Faith and Charity: Santa Cruz Children's School's Erin Andette (from left), writer/director Nadya Wynd, music director Amy Pine, Lena Pine and Eleanor Scott explore the world of Beatrix Potter in the play 'Best Friends.'

Hare Comes Mrs. Potter Tale:
SC Children's School explores a different world of children's theater

SCHOOL PLAYS MAY MAKE MOST PEOPLE CRINGE--minus that species known as "the proud parent"--but the Santa Cruz Children's School is about to change the face of local children's theater for the better. A collaborative effort, My Best Friends: The Life and Stories of Beatrix Potter, is the brainchild of writer/director Nadya Wynd, choreographer Marian Oliker and composer/musical director Amy Pine. The school's third theater production and the second the trio worked on together, My Best Friends chronicles the life of children's writer/illustrator Beatrix Potter--but it's more than just the Peter Rabbit and Mrs. Tittlemouse that people have come to expect from the yarn-spinner. Potter's works were born from her lonely childhood, and the school's production chronicles her isolated early existence.

"Beatrix Potter grew up in an upper-class family, where she was raised by nurses and a governess," says Wynd. "She had few relationships and created a fantasy world of animals to keep her company."

This childhood land of make-believe may not have been emotionally fulfilling, but it did create a rich foundation for Potter's life as a children's writer, not to mention a great piece of children's theater. Wynd was fascinated by Potter's upbringing, as well as her role as a woman at the turn of the century.

Potter also was a naturalist who could have realized a future as a scientist, were it not for the restrictive period into which she was born. "She's a great role model, especially for girls," says Wynd, "because she had immense determination and was extremely creative and self-reliant--even during this time."

My Best Friends is a piece of children's theater that goes way beyond kids in face paint, cardboard sets and generic children's stories. Sure, it has some of the cutest tots in ladybug costumes and bunny ears around, but the show also boasts a behind-the-scenes crew of talented parental costume- and set-makers, as well as a score by Santa Cruz's Ms. Pine, who ranks up in the leagues of the catchiest musical scribes.

Its creators are quick to point out that the play meets a need for local children's theater that's educational and entertaining to parents as well as to the fruits of their loins. My Best Friends has enough of the cute stuff to keep the little ones glued to the stage, but it has depth and history for the old folks, too. Of course, the 42 kids are more than excited about their big break into local show biz. As Oliker laughs, "We've got kids who are very excited and cute to those who are pretty poised and serious for their age."

My Best Friends: The Life and Stories of Beatrix Potter plays Saturday and Sunday (2pm) at Louden Nelson Center, 301 Center St, SC. Tickets cost $7 for adults and $3 for children. A silent auction precedes the show, and that money goes straight into the school's remodeling funds. For more info, call 408/429-8444.

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From the May 14-20, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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