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The trials and tribulations of a rambunctious 8-year-old

Youtheatre brings Ramona Quimby to life

By Michael Summers

michael_summers@fortwaynereader.com

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-02-04


At the beginning of Youtheatre’s production of Ramona Quimby, Beatrice “Beezus” Quimby (Lindsey Lehman), older sister of the title character, tells the audience that some plays are about famous people doing great things, or fantastical creatures in magical places, or are set in the far off future or in the distant past… But the story you’re about to see is about normal people, and happens in the most unremarkable place you can imagine, the kind of place where if “a bomb dropped on Washington, DC… people would still continue to mow their lawns.”

Based on the series of popular children’s novels by Beverly Cleary and adapted for the stage by Len Jenkin, Ramona Quimby is about the trials and tribulations of being an eight-year-old girl. “It’s a growing up show,” explains Bill Piercy, a veteran of Fort Wayne theater who plays Ramona’s father Robert. “Ramona is in third grade and she’s kind of caught in that age where she’s upset at her older sister all the time because Beezus gets to do things she doesn’t, and she’s upset at her family. It’s really a family story.”

Basically, Ramona’s family is going through some changes, and Ramona, a free spirit who doesn’t bother to control some of her youthful energy, doesn’t like it at all. There’s her older sister, Beezus, who is growing up, or trying to, but is constantly having to deal with her younger sister’s antics. “Beezus is nice,” says Lehman. “She always wants to please everybody. But Ramona is always trying to get her mad. At one point, she dunks Chevrolet (her doll) into a plate of lasagna.”

Then there’s Aunt Bea (Charlotte Janovyak), whom Ramona idolizes. “Ramona loves her,” Janovyak says. “I think Aunt Bea sort of parallels Ramona a little bit. You can sort of see how Ramona grows up.” But Ramona feels threatened when one of Aunt Bea’s old boyfriends returns to town and the two rekindle their relationship. “That definitely puts a wedge in between them,” adds Janovyak.

Hobart Kemp (Alex Tordi) eventually marries Aunt Bea and becomes Uncle Hobart. Ramona doesn’t like him, which is too bad, since everybody else seems to. “He’s probably the comic relief,” Tordi says. “He’s this outgoing guy who likes to have fun.”

Then there are Ramona’s parents, Robert and Dorothy (Jill Schriner), who she is constantly in conflict with. And to top it all off, Ramona finds herself at odds with Susan, an annoying classmate, just as her third grade year is kicking off. “Susan thinks she’s better than Ramona, and she tries to get brownie points from the teacher, Mrs. Griggs,” says Maddie Meyer, who plays Susan. “She’s a phoney goody-goody.”

The deck seems stacked against Ramona, or at least she sees it that way, and about the only person who stays by her side is Howie (Colby Shoup), her constant companion. “He doesn’t really think before he does things,” Shoup says. “If he gets an idea, he just does it and doesn’t think about it. I think he’s a lot like her, but not as wild.”

It doesn’t help that Ramona is one of the last people in the world who would hide her feelings, or try to subdue her anger when she gets upset. She’s rambunctious, craves attention, and is very fond of games that make a lot of noise.

But according to Zelda Miller, the actress who portrays Ramona, her character is just angry at what she sees as too much change, too fast. “She doesn’t have very good reasons for being angry,” Miller says. “She thinks they’re trying to be better than her, so she gets a little wild.”

“I wouldn’t really call her a brat, because I like Ramona,” Miller adds. “I think she’s just kind of crazy. She’s really outgoing and doesn’t have any manners.”

The play mixes comedy with some more serious themes — Ramona’s dad loses his job, and Aunt Bea and Uncle Hobart move to Alaska and away from Ramona — and Ramona has to learn to negotiate the tricky things that life can throw at someone. “Most people have to deal with this kind of stuff,” Miller says. “Ramona learns that her family is trying as hard as they can, and everyone has to grow up. At the end, she’s a lot more friendly and less cranky.”

Youtheatre presents Ramona Quimby
Arts United Center, 303 East Main Street
Saturday, Feb 16 and Sunday Feb 17, at 2:00pm
Arts United Center
Tickets: $12.00 adults; $8.00 students; $5.00 school shows per teacher/parent/student
Box Office opens Monday, February 11 (260) 422-4226

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