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  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Lana Thompson, left, plays Rosetta, an actress portraying the witch in “Commedia Rapubzel,” while Emmie Conner plays the actress playing Rapunzel. 

  • Gavin Dobson “clops” the sound of a horse’s hooves for Punchin (Ryan Peroza), left, and Arlequin (Josiah Beights).

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Several performers will wear masks in Youtheatre's production of "Commedia Rapunzel" 

  • Masks can be seen in Youtheatre’s “Commedia Rapunzel.”

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Punchin, played by Ryan Peroza, and Rosetta as the witch, played by Lana Thompson, in Youththeatre's presentation of "Commedia Rapunzel."  

Friday, May 17, 2019 1:00 am

Letting down their hair: Youtheatre has fun with 'Rapunzel'

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: “Commedia Rapunzel”

When: 7 p.m. today; 10 a.m. Saturday

Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.

Admission: $18 adults, $12 ages 18 and younger and 60 and older; Arts United box office and tickets.artstix.org

Rapunzel stands in a tower, her golden hair spilling down toward a menacing witch. Somewhere out there is a prince that will find the beautiful girl, fall in love and rescue her.

This sounds like a familiar story, but there's a twist in Youtheatre's production this weekend.

Youtheatre Executive Director Todd Espeland says “Commedia Rapunzel” is almost like a Looney Tunes cartoon version of the fairy tale. In the show, more than 20 youth actors play members of a theater troupe that are putting on a production of “Rapunzel.”

So the fairy tale most of us know is there. “But the way the story comes about using all these crazy comedy stereotypes (is really fun),” Espeland says.

Director Christopher J. Murphy says “Commedia Rapunzel” is a bit wacky, but it has levels that both young and old audience members will enjoy. It's also been nice for him as a director to have more than a straightforward fairy tale to work with.

“It's incredibly funny,” he says. “If the audience laughs half as much as we make ourselves laugh in rehearsals, then we're golden.”

Espeland, whose background includes mask work, is wrapping up his first season as executive director and his skills are on display in “Rapunzel,” which features a 7-foot-tall ogre puppet and several characters wearing masks. One of the masks will help the audience know when Lana Thompson is playing the witch and when she is playing the actress. Another set of masks will be seen on a group of trolls.

The cast also includes Emmie Conner as the actress playing Rapunzel, Ryan Peroza as the actor playing the prince and Josiah Beights as the actor playing the horse.

The production of “Rapunzel” comes in a spot on Youtheatre's calendar that has included Fairy Tale Fest the past several years. That larger event with family-oriented performances from other groups on the Arts Campus won't be happening this year, but Espeland says something like it might return in the future.

Youtheatre is hosting a celebration tonight for its donors and volunteers.

Representatives of Theatrefolk Publishing will be at the celebration to mark the publication of Espeland's adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's “Treasure Island,” which opened the Youtheatre season in October.

Getting Youtheatre scripts published was one of Espeland's goals to help raise the regional and national reputation of the organization. He says among the reasons the publisher liked the script was that it could be staged in a number of ways and that it featured a child as the main character. A list of Youtheatre's cast and crew for the production will be included with copies of the script.

cmcmaken@jg.net