Although she’s just 10 years old, Annabelle Samson of Olympia has a long theatrical history with “Charlotte’s Web.”
Annabelle, in fifth grade at Hansen Elementary, is playing Fern in Olympia Family Theater’s second production of the play.
Back in 2009, Annabelle’s mom, Kelli Samson, took her to the theater’s first production of E.B. White’s beloved classic about a pig and the spider who befriends him.
“It was the first play that I ever took Annabelle to,” Samson said. “We had read the story together in anticipation of going to see the play.
“She really loved the people who were wearing overalls. She was such a little girl then. She felt that was cool.”
Annabelle won’t be wearing overalls as Fern, the girl who adopts Wilbur, the pig at the center the novel. But she is thrilled to be part of the show — and the wardrobe is a part of the role’s charm.
“I’m enjoying getting to play a girl and wear a skirt,” she said. “My last few roles have been boys.”
She played a girl disguised as a boy in Olympia Family Theater’s 2014 “Orphan Train,” and a boy in Harlequin Production’s 2015 “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Despite her previous theatrical experience, she didn’t expect to get a lead role in the show.
“I was pretty much hoping for any part, because there were so many people,” she said.
“She thought she would be lucky to get an animal part,” Kelli Samson said. “She was totally blown away when we woke her up one morning to tell her she was going to be Fern.”
There are kids who are doing their first show on a big stage, along with actors who’ve done or 20 or 30 or 40 shows. It mirrors the theme of the play in terms of the friendship and support that we can give each other in a community.
Director Samantha Chandler
And Annabelle is far from the only one who’s excited about the production.
Director Samantha Chandler, one of the theater company’s co-founders, has also loved the book since she was young.
“I love the story, and I didn’t get to direct it last time,” she said. “It’s always been one of my favorite children’s books.”
This is the first time Chandler has directed an Olympia Family Theater show since she stepped down as the company’s managing director in September 2014.
She’s enjoying working with the cast of seven youths and 12 adults.
“It’s intergenerational,” she said. “That doesn’t happen often in our culture. There are kids who are doing their first show on a big stage, along with actors who’ve done or 20 or 30 or 40 shows.
“It mirrors the theme of the play in terms of the friendship and support that we can give each other in a community.”
Clarke Hallum, 16 and a junior at Olympia High School, plays Wilbur. He starred in the 5th Avenue Theatre’s 2010 production of “A Christmas Story.”
Tom Sanders, who’s performed for most of Olympia’s theater companies, plays Mr. Zuckerman, Fern’s uncle, who buys Wilbur when the pig’s full grown.
Olympia Family Theater regular Ted Ryle is tackling the role of Templeton, the rat who has to be bribed to help Charlotte execute her plan to save Wilbur’s life.
“It’s a more selfish and sinister role than Ted usually gets to play,” Chandler said.
What: Olympia Family Theater brings back Joseph Robinette’s adaptation of E.B. White’s classic, which it last presented in 2009.
When: 7 p.m. Friday (Jan. 29) plus Feb. 4-5, 11-12, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday plus Feb. 6-7, 13-14.
Where: Olympia Family Theater, 612 Fourth Ave. E., Olympia.
Tickets: $19 for adults; $16 for students, seniors and military; $13 for youth (12 and younger); available at olyft.org or at the box office. For the Feb. 4 performance, pay what you can; tickets for that performance are available only at the box office beginning at noon that day.
Information: 360-570-1638 or olyft.org.