The Kenai Performers’ latest production, “Anne of Green Gables,” opens this weekend and will run 12 shows across three weeks.
The show follows the titular Anne “with an e,” an 11-year-old orphan girl who is brought to Green Gables by the Cuthberts, an older sibling pair who decide to adopt a boy to help out on their farm.
Director Terri Burdick said “Anne of Green Gables” is a great show for younger audiences. The cast is predominantly filled with young actors, and the show runs only around 90 minutes, broken up with an intermission.
Truly Hondel is taking on the leading role of Anne Shirley.
“She’s an orphan girl with red hair — which she gets made fun of for — she’s sent to Green Gables to belong to Marilla and Matthew, but they were expecting a boy,” Hondel said. “She’s a good little girl, and no matter how many mistakes she makes, she always fixes them.”
Hondel said she could relate to Anne because they’re both talkative. She also enjoys that the character uses lots of big words.
Jackson Hooper, who plays “annoying schoolboy” Gilbert Blythe, said the production gives him a chance to portray growth.
“I like the fact that he changes throughout the story,” he said.
Gilbert is introduced as something of a bully when Anne goes to school, but Hooper said he ends up spending much of the show trying to apologize for his transgressions.
Change and growth are key themes in “Anne of Green Gables.” Donna Shirnberg, who plays Marilla Cuthbert, one of the siblings who adopt Anne, said she goes through a similar transformation.
“She’s very strict, she has no tolerance, but in the end she becomes very kind and loves Anne.”
Shirnberg said Anne drives the characters and personalities around her to grow, via “a contagious spark.”
Marilla has to “think outside of the box, to have things that have never happened to her, that she would never think of doing,” she said. “All of a sudden she has this little person she’s responsible for, and in the end, they’re very connected.”
Marilla’s brother Matthew is portrayed by Todd Sherwood, who said he was excited to be a part of the show because it’s “just one of those classics.”
Sherwood said Matthew is shy, something that he doesn’t share with the character. Despite that, Sherwood said there was a lot of connection to be found in the fatherly bond Matthew has with Anne, something he pulled from his own experience with two daughters now grown.
“There’s some real emotional notes about family and unity and coming together as a community, and I hope that’s what people see in this,” he said. “There’s a lesson there about how to live together as people.”
“Anne of Green Gables” is based on a series of books written by author L.M. Montgomery. The author is present throughout the play as a narrator, describing the characters she’s writing and even titling the chapters of the novel.
In the role of Montgomery is Heather Prisk, who said she hadn’t even intended to audition at first.
“I read the opening scene with (Montgomery’s) narration, and something just clicked,” Prisk said. “I also want to be an author, and the way the words were written resonated with me. This want of ‘I have this really cool story to tell and I want to share it with you.’”
Prisk said this play is interesting because it integrates the author into the text, though she said that in any story, the author is always present.
“You can disguise that they’re there. But they’re the ones who are really propelling the story and making these characters come to life.”
“Anne of Green Gables” will be presented Nov. 3-6, 10-13 and 17-20. The Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows will be at 7 p.m., while Sundays will be a matinee at 2 p.m. Thursday showings are being dubbed “Student Thursdays,” and will feature half-price tickets and a 15-minute lecture preceding the show. Tickets can be purchased online at kenaiperformers.org. More information about the show or about the Kenai Performers can be found on their Facebook page.