Seeing a stage version of Charlotte’s Web in first grade inspired a young Shaylon Hughs.
“I don’t know if it was glitter, but they did something really cool with all of the baby spiders in the audience. It was sad, but it made me think ‘Hey, I want to do this,’” said Hughs, who appears as one of the narrators in the Augusta University production of E.B. White’s classic children’s novel.
Melanie O’Meara, an associate professor in the Pamplin College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Art and Design created her own interpretation of the beloved book for the Augusta University stage.
Hughs isn’t the only cast member who was impacted by the tale of a farmyard pig whose life was spared from the butcher by his resourceful spider friend, Charlotte.
Fellow actor Jaysen Lami shares a similar tale.
“My older sister was Charlotte in the show,” said Lami, who was in kindergarten when he first saw the play. “It was my sister, but it wasn’t my sister. It was an entirely different being. The absolute sorrow I felt when she died. I remember thinking I loved that feeling and I wanted to give that feeling to other people. That’s what got me into theater.”
Charlotte’s Web features 16 Augusta University students plus some members of the community including several children who are friends or family of cast members.
Most cast members have fond memories related to the story. Some saw a stage adaptation while others read the book.
“It was a favorite of mine when I was a kid,” said O’Meara. ”I thought it would be fun to do.”
Cast members say they’ve had fun so far.
“The way that Dr. O’Meara does shows is really exciting,” said Lami. “There’s so much authorship you get as a performer where you can really make the characters your own. And you get to make animal sounds. What’s not to love about that?”
While the show is fun, what makes the tale so special and relevant is the message at its heart, O’Meara said.
“The themes of friendship and diversity,” said O’Meara. “We can find our friends in the most unlikely places – like the doorway of the barn.”
Lami said that although the story was written for children, adults also can relate to its message of acceptance and friendship.
Charlotte’s Web will be performed at 7 p.m. March 16-18 and 3 p.m. March 19 at Augusta University’s Maxwell Performing Arts Theatre. For ticket information, visit the theater website.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscribe to the newsletter here.