11-year-old makes story come to life on club's stage
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 16, 2012 1:46 PM
Teandre Bonds, 11, center acts out a scene alongside Lanya Mayes, 7, left, and Keshawn Jackson, 8, during a play rehearsal of "Matilda" at the Boys and Girls Club of Northern Wayne. Teandre adapted her favorite book for the performance.
Myana Sims, 8, acts out a scene during a rehearsal. Myana has the starring role in the production.
FREMONT -- "Matilda" is Teandre Barnes' favorite movie.
The 1996 film, based on a popular children's book by Roald Dahl, starred Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman and Mara Wilson, is the story of an odd but charming little girl being raised by two gruff parents.
Teandre, 11, who will be a sixth-grader at Norwayne Middle School, decided to take creative license and condense the story into a play for her friends at the Boys & Girls Club of Northern Wayne County. She serves as director and co-producer.
The play has become the summer project for the youths, said Andreta Wooten, club director.
The club has hosted talent shows and concerts in the past, she noted, but this is the first time for such a production.
"They asked to do it and I told them it would be fine," she says. "I talked to them about dedication -- 'I know you like the play and have fun but when you're a part of something, you have to commit yourself. And play time has to be shorter than usual. You want people to come out to see you and do well.'
"They just took over and the two producers just went with it."
At a recent rehearsal in a small side room at the club, a dozen boys and girls -- except for Teandre, all under the age of 10 -- took their places to run through lines of scenes that will soon be presented for the public, as part of a fundraiser for the Smart Girls program at the club.
"It's hard because some of us don't really know the parts and some of us can't get it as well as some of the others," said Anya Sims, 10, a fifth-grader at Fremont STARS Elementary School who juggles the roles of narrator and co-producer.
"We practice it over and over until we get it right," said Malasia Artis, 8, a third-grader at Fremont STARS, who plays Lavendar, one of the students.
One of the popular scenes from the movie is where Bruce, another student, was forced to eat excessive amounts of chocolate cake as a punishment.
"It's not going to be a cake, it's a brownie," Teandre explained, adding that when for the performance, the character won't have to stuff down a large quantity. "It'll be two brownies and one cookie."
"I'm OK with it," said Jayden Johnson, 9, who plays Bruce.
With that, several take their places at the front of the room to re-enact the scene.
"You can do it, Bruce," chant his classmates.
As if on cue, Jayden manages to create a "brrrrp" sound.
Two club members share the role of Matilda. Myana Sims, 8, portrays big Matilda and 7-year-old Lanya Mayes is the younger version. Both are happy to be playing the beloved character.
"I feel good because my favorite person in the movie was Matilda. She can control things with her eyes," said Myana.
Despite having to rehearse and then rehearse again, it's all coming together, Ms. Wooten says. And with minimal problems.
"I get to work with my friends and Ms. Wooten lets us come back here just to practice," said Anya.
"I think it's fun because we get to work with people we know and because I have never been in a play before and now I'm figuring out what it's like to be in a play," said Tkeyah Jackson, 10, who plays the role of beloved teacher Miss Honey.
"What's fun about this play to me is one scene, I think it's the ending scene where (headmistress) Ms. Trunchbull gets water balloons thrown at her," Malasia said.
"Some get tired of practicing," Anya admitted.
"What's the word I say?" Ms. Wooten asked.
"Dedication!" the group said in unison.
The youth have actually come together well for the cause, Ms. Wooten said.
"Every day, they ask to practice," she said. "If one of them doesn't show up, they're like, 'Ms. Wooten, they need to show up.' I'm proud of them."
As the club members put the finishing touches on learning lines and figuring out costumes, make-up and props, all that remains will be getting in front of an audience.
Performance will be on Friday, Sept. 7, at 6 p.m. at the club, located at 405 N. Sycamore St. in Fremont. Admission is $2.