It’s the timeless tale of an unlikely friendship between a spider and a pig, and a the ultimate sacrifice.
“My goal is to spread this message that the friendship that was built between Charlotte and Wilbur was strong enough to save a life. And not just Wilbur’s life, but the life of her babies,” said Director David M. Rodriguez, theatrical artistic director at Vero Voce.
“Charlotte’s Web” opens May 10 at Vero Voce in St. Charles and runs through May 18. Based on the classic children’s book by E.B. White, the play tells the story of how Charlotte the spider saves her friend, a pig names Wilbur, from slaughter by spinning messages praising the pig in her web.
“This is the one I’ve been looking forward to all season because this is really the kids chance to show everybody that they are actually amazing, solid, dramatic actors,” Rodriguez said.
In the past, the children’s shows — mostly musicals — have always have a six-week rehearsal time, with two weeks focused on music and four on the acting. Since this is not a musical, the cast has had a full six weeks to focus on the acting, he said.
“Which really allowed us to get into the characters for the first couple rehearsals, basically the first two weeks,” Rodriguez said. “It was really beneficial for us to tell the truth of the story.”
The cast features 18 members, many of whom appeared in shows throughout Vero Voce’s season. When they appear on stage though, don’t expect them to be in traditional animal costumes.
“Wilbur will not have the little curly tail, ears and nose,” Rodriguez said.
The actor will be in a peach colored shirt or pants.
“Charlotte will not have eight arms. Again, it’s just humans playing characters that happen to be animals. They’re not going to walk across the stage like animals,” he said.
Instead, they are characters who just happen to be animals, he stressed.
“When you go for cute, you kind of overlook the truth of the story. What it really comes down to is Charlotte the spider sacrifices her life for Wilbur, and we really want to take the time to demonstrate that and why she made the choice.”
With extra time to focus on characterization, Templeton the rat — an incredibly selfish character — can convey why he decides to become part of the plan to save Wilbur.
“When you really take a step back to really look at the consequences and the circumstances of the honest situation, the characters come out more honestly and you understand them more,” Rodriguez said.
He describes the production not as a kids’ show, but an actual play that just happens to be played by younger actors.
“I’m really going for the gut. I’m really banking on these kids connecting to the emotions,” he said. “The whole family, I think will not only enjoy it, but I think be affected by it.”
The show also features an added twist to the script — one he could not reveal.
“If you’ve seen our shows in the past, please come see this one. Being a drama, it will definitely show a different side to what we can do,” Rodriguez said. “And if you haven’t seen our shows before, this definitely has to be the first one.”