Arts & Culture

Meet the surprise villain of Hundred-Acre Wood

We didn’t think anything about Winnie the Pooh could surprise us. We’ve read the books, seen the TV specials, cuddled the stuffed animals and maybe even taken a Facebook quiz.

But when we spoke to Jen Ryle, director of Olympia Family Theater’s production of the beloved classic by A.A. Milne, we were surprised.

“Pooh saves Piglet from Kanga,” Ryle said. “Kanga is sort of the bad character in this story. She’s sort of a stranger moving into the forest, and there are rumors about her.”

So Kanga, the kangaroo and mom to little Roo, is a villain? We don’t remember that.

“Yes, I am the big, evil monster that is, they say, enormous and gigantic,” said Kim Holm, who plays Kanga. “I have a bathtub that I’m threatening everyone with. I keep a cake of soap in my pocket, and I have a bottle of poison.”

Poison? Now surely that is going a bit far, although Holm does do a lot of black comedy with Theater Artists Olympia.

“In reality, it’s strengthening medicine,” Holm admitted. “But the rumor is that it has a skull and crossbones on it and that it’s poison.”

The thrust of the story – or at least one of the stories included in the adaptation by Kristin Sergel – is that Kanga wants to give Piglet a bath. Horrors!

The play, in which the actors wear ears and tails but reveal their human faces, is fun for all ages, said Ryle, the theater’s co-artistic director.

“The actors are so funny that them bringing the characters to life and seeing their faces is really what makes it enjoyable for any age,” she said.

One face you won’t see is Tigger’s. The script is set before the bouncing tiger moved into the Wood.

Ryle said she wasn’t much into the denizens of the Hundred-Acre Wood until she started reading them to her own children.

“When I was a kid, I was not a big Winnie the Pooh fan,” she said, “but as an adult reading the stories to my own kids, I appreciate them more.

“They pop out of the page onto the stage with us,” she added, “and that will help people appreciate them more.”

But Holm is an old hand with Pooh. In fact, she played Kanga in 1985 at Timberline High School.

“When I was asked to come audition for this part, I said, ‘Oh, that’s funny – I played Kanga in high school,’” Holm said. “I didn’t even realize then that it was the exact same script.

“But I’m doing it very differently,” she said. “I’m doing it darker, and now, I’m a mom. When you’re 16 or 17, you have no frame of reference for being a mother.

“Now, I have a Roo (5-year-old Max), and I totally understand everything that this mother is doing.”

‘Winnie the Pooh’

What: Olympia Family Theater presents a theatrical adaptation of A.A. Milne’s beloved story about Christopher Robin and the adventures of his stuffed bear.

When: 7 p.m. today and Friday, as well as May 28 and 29 and June 4, 5, 11 and 12; 4 p.m. Saturday and May 30 as well as June 6 and 13; and 1 p.m. Sunday and May 31 as well as June 7 and 14.

Where: Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Road S.W. Olympia.

Tickets $15 for adults, $8 for children 12 and younger, $10 for students (13-18), $12 for seniors. Available at www.buyolympia.com/events and at the door. For tonight’s show, tickets are $5 at the door.

More information: 360-570-1638 or www.olyft.org

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