Youth theater presenting ‘Charlotte’s Web’ next two weekends



Terrific, radiant and humble are words woven into a spider’s web describing a pig she befriended.

As other “madcap and endearing” farm animals and the humans are introduced, the tale between Charlotte and Wilbur explores bravery, selfless love and the true meaning of friendship.

E.B. White’s classic childhood story “Charlotte’s Web” is being brought to life by Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre the next two weekends at Royal Off-the-Square Theatre in Brownstown.

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Joel Stevens, a seventh grader at Seymour Middle School, portrays Wilbur, and Gabriella Parisi, an eighth grader at Immanuel Lutheran School, plays the role of Charlotte.

“I like all of the good friendship between Wilbur and Charlotte,” Stevens said.

“I really like that it kind of starts out a little sad like real life and then it kind of ends a little sad with real life, too, but ends on a happier note and ends up with a good feeling,” Parisi said.

In White’s story, Wilbur has a problem: How to avoid winding up as pork chops. Charlotte, a fine writer and true friend, hits on a plan to fool the farmer, Homer Zuckerman, by creating a miracle.

Spinning the words “Some Pig” in her web, Charlotte weaves a solution that not only makes Wilbur a prize pig but also ensures his place on the farm forever.

“It expresses the true meaning of friendship,” Director John Rohlfing said. “A friend is somebody who is going to be loyal, they’ll stick with you through thick and thin, they’ll do anything for you, even to the point of laying down their life for you.”

Rohlfing said he likes how White and playwright Joseph Robinette maintained realism when it comes to issues of life and death.

“They kept it pretty real, and so sometimes, it’s a little raw,” he said. “For some of us, it has been so long since we’ve visited this story or saw one of the movies, we’ve forgotten how much that is in this story, and yet that’s part of its appeal is it tells it like it is in a beautiful, fantasy way.”

Parisi said portraying Charlotte is interesting.

“It’s a really challenging part because I’m not very good at emotional characters,” she said. “It’s hard because Charlotte’s not an overly dramatic character. Those are typically easier to play. She’s more of like a held-back, self-controlled character, which is harder. I’ve never played a character like that before, but it’s fun in the sense that I get to be kind of fancy.”

Stevens said he likes portraying Wilbur.

“He’s really curious, and he’s just a fun character,” he said.

Rohlfing and the actors like the message of the show.

“I would say that life is a roller coaster up and down, and there are always going to be people who are the best things in life and really embody things that are so meaningful and powerful, but they are not forever,” Parisi said. “Sometimes, you just need to move on and live with the new things.”

Stevens said it shows people the importance of being a good friend and helping each other.

“If their friend needs help with something that they would help them and be like, ‘Yeah, do this,'” he said.

Rohlfing said it’s something everyone can relate to.

“We’ve all had friends, we’ve all needed friends, we’ve all experienced loss, so there are some major touchpoints there,” he said.

The shows are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. July 19 and 20.

“The atmosphere is so fun, it’s so funny and it also touches on a good deal of real life things,” Parisi said.

“It’s a lot of fun just working with others and making a production that everyone can enjoy,” Stevens said.

After all, he is some pig.

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What: Jackson County Young Artists’ Theatre’s production of “Charlotte’s Web”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. July 19 and 20

Where: Royal Off-the-Square Theatre, 121 W. Walnut St., Brownstown

Cost: $8; available online at or at the door

Cast: Jenna Boknecht (Fern Arable); John Ortman (John Arable); Katie Rohlfing (Martha Arable); Max Maschino (Avery Arable); Evan Rohlfing (Homer Zuckerman); Addison Bumbleburg (Edith Zuckerman); Drew Kerkhof (Lurvy); Joel Stevens (Wilbur); Jack Charlton (Templeton); Gabriella Parisi (Charlotte); Olivia Deweese (Goose); Sam Parisi (Gander); Jane Deweese (Sheep); Alana Jacobi (Lamb); Morgan Henry (First Member); Brinna Sharp (Second Member); Olivia Hendrix (Third Member); Landon Whitson (Dr. Dorian); Parker Windley (Reporter); Clara Sharp (Photographer); Benjamin Neawedde (Announcer); Landon Whitson (Uncle); Lilly Charlton (Little Spider 1); Jaerin Vernon (Little Spider 2); Jolee Vernon (Little Spider 3); Emily Windley (Spectator 1/Judge 2); Jonathan Neawedde (Spectator 2/Judge 1); Belle Kiewit (Fairgoer/Spectator); Elias Sharp (Fairgoer/Spectator); Emma Kirchner (Fairgoer)

Director: John Rohlfing

Assistant director: Steve Deweese

Student director: Hannah Kerkhof

Producer: Michelle Elkins

Stage crew: Emma Kirchner

Sound: Jake Bohn

Lights: Trinity Skinner

Costumes: Julie Rohlfing


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