Recommended Reading for Girls—A Cast of Characters

You may not be familiar with the production of Recommended Reading for Girls. That’s because it is the world premiere, by Omaha playwright Ellen Struve. The play centers on Amy Saunders who returns home to help her mother through a round of chemotherapy. She and her sister, Jackie, find four unexpected guests in their childhood home. They meet the heroines, Sara Crewe from A Little Princess, Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables, Heidi from Heidi and Penny Parker, Girl Detective based on the character of Nancy Drew, as they sort through their problems. I had the opportunity to talk with some of the cast to see how they felt about the world premiere of Recommended Reading for Girls (RRFG) and how they prepared for their roles.

Christina Rohling (Amy Saunders)

Character description:
“Amy is the youngest of two sisters and the one who has the more contentious relationship with her mother. She feels like she has messed up everything in her life and just isn't able to understand her mother or to feel that she has made her mother proud.”

What is it like to interact with some famous book characters on stage?
“It is fun to see how Ellen has made the literary girls come to life. Several of their lines are directly from the books, and I think she has done a wonderful job of capturing their essence in her characters. Of course, the actresses playing them are doing a wonderful job of bringing them to life!”  

Preparing for role:
“The thing I have enjoyed the most in preparing for the show is that I discover something new each time it is read or while working in rehearsals. It has been fun to go back to an earlier scene and discover a thread that connects it to something later in the show.”

How does it feel to be in the world premiere of Recommended Reading for Girls?  
“I am very honored to be a part of such a strong cast and I am grateful to Amy Lane and Ellen Struve for their collaborative spirit and for allowing me to play Amy. This is a very different process than other shows where the script is final. With RRFG, there are daily tweaks to the script, so it keeps all of us on our toes.”

Shannon Jackson (Penny Parker)

Who is Penny Parker?
Penny is smart, adventurous, clever and of all the literary girls in this play she's definitely the most self-possessed and sassy. Everyone elseHeidi, Sara Crewe, Anne Shirleyseems to come into this family's life to help with chores, Penny comes to solve the mystery and save the day!”

Inspiration for Penny:
“I'm reading her books and looking into her and other kid detective stories such as Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, etc. This genre used to be HUGE, there's a lot of stuff out there. “ 

How does it feel to be in the world premiere of Recommended Reading for Girls?
“I adore it. I'm so glad to be able to bring this funny and touching play to an audience that literally has no idea what's going to happen. I also love how well this play stands on its own.”

Amy Schweid  (Sara Crewe)

Who is Sara Crewe?
“Sara is the famous character from the children's novel A Little Princess. She is incredibly insightful, charming and a kind person who, more than anything, is a wonderful storyteller.”

Inspiration for Sara: “It is tricky playing a character that so many people have envisioned in their heads. Almost all of my inspiration comes from A Little Princess, the script of Recommended Reading for Girls and my own life experiences.”
How does it feel to be in the world premiere of Recommended Reading for Girls? 
Holy Moly! I'm so excited. I have been with this play since one of the very first read throughs, and it has been so amazingly wonderful to experience all the changes and shifts. It's like watching this teenager grow out of the awkward years and become this full-blown, amazing adult.” 

Mika Caplan (Heidi)

Who is Heidi?
“Heidi is a 10-year-old Swiss girl who loves goats and playing on her beloved mountain.”

Inspiration for Heidi:
“I’m mainly using the book as my inspiration for Heidi.  Some of my inspiration comes from little girls I know that remind me of Heidi.”

How does it feel to be in the world premiere of Recommended Reading for Girls?
“I think that it’s amazing that we can rehearse and have the playwright watching us and even change a few things once in a while. Opening night will probably be very exciting for all of us!”

Olivia Sather (Anne Shirley)

Who is Anne Shirley?
“Anne is very dramatic and has a wild imagination. She is often caught daydreaming or forgetting what she is suppose to be doing because she allows her mind to wander into all sorts of stories. It is easy to misjudge Anne as too sweet and simple, but she is as sharp as a whip and has quite a hot temper.”

Inspiration for Anne: I read the book Anne of Green Gables before we started rehearsal, so I am using that as inspiration. I also draw from other young girls. I am an older sister, so I draw some inspiration from remembering what my little sister was like at 13 or 14.”

How does it feel to be in the world premiere of Recommended Reading for Girls
“Amazing! This is such an incredible cast, lead by a wonderful director, working on a beautifully written play. Each night of rehearsal I get more and more excited to share this story with Omaha and the world. It really is a play for all audiences. Everyone can find something about this story that really hits home for them; it's not just for girls!” 

Come meet the rest of the cast and enjoy this wonderful production that is perfect for the whole family! Don’t miss the world premiere in the Howard Drew Theatre, May 3, through June 2, 2013; Thursday–Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, 2 p.m.

Tickets are $35 for adults and $21 for students. For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $23 for adults and $15 for students. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call (402) 553-0800, visit the OCP Box Office or click here.

Story by Anna Venditte

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