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The “other” orphan Anne
Youtheatre’s Anne of Green Gables
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Anne of Green Gables starts off with a major misunderstanding, and it’s the perfect beginning for a story that’s basically about perception and how one sees other people.
Fort Wayne Youtheatre’s production of the Lucy Maud Montgomery novel stars Annie Rumsey as Anne Shirley, an orphan whose… we’ll say ‘exuberance’… puts her at odds with the relatively quiet rural community where she has been adopted by siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert — they though they were getting a boy from the orphanage to help work on the farm. Instead, they get Anne. “Anne has been in many, many foster homes,” explains Rumsey. “She’s a little wild, crazy, and she has this big imagination. She gets into a lot of trouble.”
Brock Eastom, who plays Anne’s rival Gilbert Blythe, puts it more bluntly: “She never stops talking.”
Anne doesn’t think much before she speaks, giving as good as she gets — and then some — whenever there’s a conflict. In fact, it isn’t long after Anne’s arrival that she finds herself nose-to-nose with Rachel Lynde, the Cuthbert’s nosey next-door neighbor, played by Lisa Ellis, who thinks orphans are dangerous. “When I first see Anne, I say that she’s extremely homely,” says Ellis, who previously acted in several all for One productions. “It’s a rude thing to say, but Rachel prides herself as a woman who speaks her mind.”
And Anne speaks her mind right back. “She gets so angry at me, and I’m stunned by her reaction,” laughs Ellis. Anne’s subsequent apology is so convoluted and roundabout that it doesn’t do much to change Rachel’s feelings about orphans in general or Anne in particular.
But according to Sarah Johnson, who plays Anne’s best friend Diana Berry, Anne is not so much mean-spirited as she just has too much energy. Diane is a more level-headed girl who enjoys her friend’s seemingly boundless enthusiasm. “They’re really good friends,” says Johnson. “She tries to keep Anne real and down to Earth. She tells Anne when she’s being too mean or when she’s getting out of control.”
Their friendship, of course, doesn’t mean Diana is immune from the aura of trouble that Anne seems to carry with her. In one scene, Anne convinces Diana to take a boat out on a freezing cold day; the boat springs a leak and they need to be rescued. In another scene, Anne brings Diana several raspberry cordials; Diana thinks they’re soft drinks, downing a few of them before they realize it’s currant wine. By then, Diana is several sheets to the wind, and her mother (played by Connie Chapman) is not amused.
One of Anne’s big problems has to do with forgiveness — while Anne expects other people to excuse her transgressions, she holds a grudge. “She can’t forgive other people,” says Brock Eastom. And Easton should know, or rather, his character Gilbert Blythe should know. Gilbert is the big man at school — a bit of a bully, but nevertheless pretty popular among his peers and successful with girls. He mocks Annie on her arrival at school, and earns her seemingly undying enmity, even when he has a change of heart and tries to befriend her. “He does so many different things,” Eastom says. “He tries to be as nice as he can to her, but it’s no use. He even saves her life, but she still won’t forgive him.”
Saves her life? “Yeah, when Diana and Anne are in the sinking boat, Gilbert comes to save them,” Annie Rumsey says. “And Anne gets mad at him!”
Anne learns forgiveness, of course, and the people of the community — including Rachel Lynde — learn that there’s a good and generous person beneath Anne’s wild imagination and constant chatter. But Rumsey is quick to point out that though Anne of Green Gables is a sweet story, she’d rather that the audience have a good time than learn a lesson. “It’s a really funny play,” she says. “Anne is a great character, and I’m having so much fun playing her,” says the actress, who played Fern in Youtheatre’s production of Charlotte’s Web. “The play is just really funny and really entertaining.”
Fort Wayne Youtheatre presents Anne of Green Gables
Arts United Center
303 East Main Street
Saturday, February 13 and Sunday February 14, at 2:00pm
Tickets: $12.00 adults and students; $8.00 students/child
Box Office opens Monday, February 8, noon – 4 pm.