09/07/10 — Anne steps out of pages onto college's stage

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Anne steps out of pages onto college's stage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 7, 2010 1:46 PM

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Kristie Johnson, 14, a student at Faith Christian Academy, has been chosen to play the part of Anne in the production of "Anne of Greene Gables," by the Wayne Community College Foundation.

When 14-year-old Kristie Johnson took the stage at Moffatt Auditorium during last week's auditions, the character in L.M. Montgomery's book "Anne of Green Gables" came alive, the director of the upcoming play said.

"Over 20 girls of all ages auditioned at the college Wednesday," said Margaret Boothe Baddour of Wayne Community College, who will be directing the production Nov. 4-7. "Not only did we find the delightful Ms. Johnson, who displayed all the enthusiasm, imagination and flightiness of the original girl in the books by L.M. Montgomery, but we found several other young people to take parts as Anne's friends."

The Faith Christian Academy ninth-grader, though, "popped out" as the obvious choice for the lead role, Mrs. Baddour said.

"She was just Anne. She just burst through the reading and was Anne," she said. "She had all the qualities of Anne and it showed that she had a theater background. Her diction and her movement on stage were so liquid and natural."

The audition prompted Mrs. Baddour to make a notation on her notepad -- "I guess we found our Anne."

In person, Kristie also exudes a flair for the dramatic. Animated and articulate, she said she still can't believe it all happened.

Just last weekend, she said she awoke to overhear her older sister Alicia, 17, and mom, Sherry, discussing the upcoming auditions.

"My sister would like to do it but she's 5-foot-7, too tall for a 13-year-old," Kristie said. "But she's really good."

Her initial reaction was that there was little time remaining before the audition.

"I was thinking, 'Wow, this is really close so I don't have a lot to anticipate,'" she said. "But there was a lot to anticipate. I kept telling myself that there would be a lot of girls there, no matter how good you think you are ... it probably won't happen."

She determined to simply view it as an auditioning experience and enjoy it as much as possible.

She was already reading the library book "Anne of Green Gables," which coincidentally she had checked out just days before learning of the audition. Once she decided to audition, Kristie said she also spent some time watching movies based on the book.

She said she found herself conflicted about the best way to approach the audition and whether to emulate Megan Follows, the actress featured in the movie version.

"This girl is so serious. I have never had a really serious part," Kristie said. "I kept seeing Anne and thinking maybe I can play Anne, I don't think I can play Megan Follows. But she did give me some great ideas as to how to portray her."

The more research she did, the more she found she really wanted the part for her own.

"I was praying a lot before this because it can't conflict with church and we need to make sure of all that. I just prayed, 'Lord, if you want me to get this part, just give it to me.'"

Nervousness still came, but she chose to let go of the outcome.

So oblivious was she, that when Mrs. Baddour pulled several of them aside immediately following the auditions, she had no idea she might have been cast in the play.

"(Mrs. Baddour) took us aside and started going over the schedule with us," Kristie recalls. "At one point, I asked, 'Do you know when we're going to find out what part we got, if we got in?' I don't think I comprehended it at first."

Perhaps it's a role she was meant to play.

Pulling out a family scrapbook, Mrs. Johnson points to a series of pictures taken in 2003 when the family visited Prince Edward Island in Canada, where the fictional town of Avonlea was based.

"My husband (Michael) had just come back from the war and we just needed to get away," she said. "It was our trip to celebrate him returning from the war."

One of the highlights of that trip had been dressing up their three kids -- which also include 13-year-old Kevin -- in period garb, then-7-year-old Kristie as Anne.

"We never dreamed she would be Anne of Green Gables," Mrs. Johnson said of the latest development.

This will not be Kristie's first time treading the boards, though, Mrs. Baddour explained. She has also performed in StageStruck, including the role of Sassy Lamb in "Charlotte's Web" and Fairy Godmother in "Cinderella. Most recently, she played the princess in Missoula's "The Frog Prince," where her brother played the lead, and participated in a Christian film "Save Daddy," which is still being edited.

This will be a different role for her, however, and one Kristie says she hopes to bring to life as honestly and authentically as possible.

She will have to juggle her already busy schedule, which includes cheerleading and church activities.

But she views it in perhaps the same way as the character she will soon represent on stage, thoughtfully and introspectively.

"Am I going to look back over this when I'm 40 and say, 'Man, I'm glad I had that free time?' or that I'll be glad I was able to play the part of Anne of Green Gables?" she said.

And, much like the kindred spirit she will soon portray, Kristie says her life just might be more similar to Anne's than she first envisioned.

"As I was watching Anne, I kept thinking, in this way we have something in common," she said. "Gilbert told Anne, 'You ought to be an actress,' but she became a teacher, a writer ... and invested in other people, helping other people."

Much the same way Kristie would like to imagine her own life will unfold.