Olympia Family Theater does plays for children, but for the most part, the actors and crew members are adults. But “The Phantom Tollbooth,” opening tonight, features not only a young cast but a couple of young designers — including lighting designer Eli Wasserman, 12, a student at the Alki program at Reeves Middle School.
“He’s designing the sound, and he’ll run the sound cues during the show,” said Jen Ryle, the play’s director and the theater company’s artistic director. “He’s run the sound board for us for ‘A Christmas Story.’ He loves doing sound.”
Ryle’s daughter Mandy, 18, a student at The Evergreen State College, did the set design and painted the sets along with her sister, Emmalene, 16, a junior at Olympia High School.
Emmalene is also playing Tock, the watchdog — quite literally a dog with a watch as part of its body — in the play, based on Norton Juster’s book about Milo, who visits the Kingdom of Wisdom.
“It has so much wordplay and fun humor,” Ryle said.
“I had actually never read the book,” she said. “I was looking through scripts, and I ran across the description of the play.
“I loved the script. It’s so clever. Then I went and read the book, and it is also so clever.”
It’s a very active production, with set elements that revolve and move, and 26 cast members, with most playing multiple roles as Milo, Tock and the Humbug travel through the kingdom.
“There are at least 45 different characters in the play,” Ryle said. “It’s a lot of costumes. It’s a lot of moving in and out. The kids are having fun.”
The show is suggested for ages 7 and older, and cast members range from 12 to 17. Ryle wanted older cast members because the show’s word-based wit is best delivered by actors with slightly more sophistication.
“The humor plays more to someone who is a little older and understands vocabulary and even a little math,” she said.
In the spring, the company will present a small show with younger actors in its own space at 112 State Ave. N.E., Olympia. The space has been used for rehearsals, storage and offices, and it’s large enough to accommodate a small show.
She said the company is excited about having a downtown space of its own.
“It was my dream to roll the costume rack down the street to The Washington Center,” she said, “and we got to do it. It was dry on load-in day, so we were running down the sidewalk with our costumes.” ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’
What: Olympia Family Theater presents this season’s youth production, an adaptation of Norton Juster’s classic story about a boy’s magical and joke-filled journey to the Kingdom of Wisdom.
When: 7 p.m. today and Feb. 9, 10, 16 and 17; 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Feb. 11, 12, 18 and 19; and 4:30 p.m. Feb. 11 and 18
Where: The Black Box at The Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. S.E., Olympia
Tickets: $16 adults; $12 students, seniors, military; $9 ages 12 and younger.