The Journal Gazette
Friday, October 08, 2021 1:00 am

Fort Wayne Youtheatre shares hope, kindness with 'Charlotte's Web'

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne Youtheatre shares a story full of hope as it opens “Charlotte's Web” tonight.

Though the classic barnyard story is about grief and loss, it is also a funny show about love, support and kindness, says executive and artistic director Todd Espeland.

“There's so many messages of hope, I think, that are really appropriate for what's going on” in the world, says Espeland, who is directing the show. “I hope it leads to discussions at home with families.”

Based on the beloved children's book, the play by Joseph Robinette follows the friendship of a young pig, Wilbur, and the spider Charlotte who weaves messages in her web above his pen.

There are 18 children in the cast, including Zidon Spradling as Wilbur and Jordajé Sankara as Charlotte.

The production runs just over an hour, and Espeland says it doesn't skimp on the message that hope is ever present and kindness wins out.

“Charlotte's Web” is a well-known book by E.B. White and has been adapted into more than one movie. But Espeland says he thinks people are always interested in seeing the thing they love in live theater.

“I think adults that love the book are going to bring their kids to the show because they want to have a shared experience with it,” he says.

Youtheatre is using the ArtsLab black box theater for this performance but will present the rest of its stage season at First Presbyterian Theatre. Though Youtheatre often has its holiday show at First Pres, ArtsLab has been home to most of the group's shows.

The change marks a great partnership, Espeland says. Youtheatre students can participate even more in the technical side of theater such as lighting and building sets, and they get the chance to work with First Pres technical director Rae Surface.

There are a lot of children interested in theater but don't want to be onstage, and Espeland emphasizes that “tech kids are theater kids.”

“This really helps us expand what we can do educationally and it helps us bring what we do to even more places in the community,” he says, adding that First Pres has a beautiful theatre and message that art is central to the human experience.

Apart from Youtheatre's stage season, its On The Go program (formerly the Storybook Theatre Troupe) will present the radio play “Dark and Stormy Night” just in time for Halloween. Recorded at University of Saint Francis, the show written by an Youtheatre alumni will be broadcast Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 on WBOI.

If you go

What: “Charlotte's Web”

When: 7 p.m. today, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 4 p.m. Saturday

Where: ArtsLab, 300 E. Main St.

Admission: $18 adults, $12 ages 18 and younger, $12 seniors; ArtsTix Community Box Office, 422-4226 or

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