Amy Shephard never imagined herself specializing in playing nonhuman roles.
Since she started working with Olympia Family Theater, Shephard has played a spider (“Charlotte’s Web”) and a squirrel (“A Year With Frog and Toad”), and tonight she makes her debut as a mouse in “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” based on the popular picture book.
“It’s a genre that I didn’t necessarily think I would be playing a lot, but it’s something I’ve gravitated toward,” Shephard said.
And of the animals she has played, so far, the mouse is the one she most identifies with.
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“I’m a very energetic person,” she said. “In the script, it talks a lot about how the mouse is a bundle of energy. It’s how you might think a 7-year-old kid would be, but times 10. For people who know me, seeing me play a mouse will not be much of a stretch.”
Jen Ryle, who’s directing the production, agrees. “She was born to play this role. She’s so energetic and exuberant. The mouse is just climbing and dancing and moving all over the place, so it’s a real workout.”
The show, about a mischievous and demanding mouse and the boy who tries to fulfill the creature’s every request, is set in a world the way a mouse – or a child – might see it.
Both roles are played by adults – the boy by Jon Tallman, who lives up to his name at a height of 6-foot-3, and Shephard, who’s about a foot shorter.
“Things are scaled to make Jon look like a 9- or 10-year-old boy,” Ryle said. “We’ve created a really giant kitchen. We have a 10-foot-high refrigerator and a table that’s 4 feet off the ground. Everything is huge in order to make them look small. A child walks around in the world, and everything is giant-size, so we’re making that true for the actors as well.”
It also is a short show, suitable for young audience members.
“Each act is just about a half-hour,” she said. “It’s built for the youngest of viewers to see, because it is so physical and there is so much happening. And they’ll identify with the mouse.”
But Ryle admitted that she and her husband, Ted Ryle, went to Seattle Children’s Theater to see a production of it without taking their kids. “We had a blast,” she said. “I am a fan of physical comedy.”
The show definitely has some moments that are intended for adult enjoyment, she added, including a re-enactment of the Marx Brothers’ mirror routine from “Duck Soup.”
“It’s a nod to those physical comedians that we know about and the next generation might not, unless they are checking it out on YouTube,” she said.