Curtain raises for ‘Anne of Green Gables’
TV series gives timely kick to local show
By Scott Bellile
Sometimes Netflix can work wonders. Just ask Chris Renner, director of the Wolf River Theatrical Troupe’s summer youth production.
Renner selected an adaption of L. M. Montgomery’s 1908 book “Anne of Green Gables” for the annual play because he wanted a storybook favorite with name recognition.
When he went around the New London schools recruiting actors in early May, however, it turned out the kids weren’t familiar with the story.
Then on May 12, Netflix premiered “Anne with an E,” an adaptation of the novel produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
About a week later, Renner said he met again with his recruits. Voila – a number of them saw the television show and now knew who Anne was.
Renner said he had no idea “Anne with an E” was out there and did not pick the summer production with that in mind.
“Netflix happened by accident to just make it that people would more know what the story was about,” Renner said.
The troupe, sponsored by the School District of New London’s summer school program, will stage “Anne of Green Gables” Wednesday, July 12 through Saturday, July 15.
The show begins at 7 p.m. each night at the New London High School auditorium. Tickets cost $10 each.
Renner offered a lowdown on the play’s story. Eleven-year-old orphan Anne accidentally gets sent to live with the Cuthberts, a pair of adoptive siblings who had requested a boy.
“This girl goes ahead and wins their hearts, has a lot of different growing up experiences through the show and ends up graduating with honors,” Renner said. “Both the Cuthberts and Anne of Green Gables end up bettering themselves as well as all of the community around them, and Anne in the end ends up accepting who she is and what she is despite her red hair and her orphanage upbringing.”
Renner selected 12-year-old Peyton Walz to play Anne because he said her spunky attitude made her perfect for the role.
Walz said Anne’s character comes to her naturally because they are similar in many ways.
Walz described Anne’s personality in a variety of terms: hopeful, stubborn, creative, dramatic, energetic and tempered.
Anne endures a lot during her young orphan life, Walz said. So how did Walz learn to capture Anne’s emotional attitude?
“I watched the Netflix series and, bam, it just showed me everything I need to know,” Walz said.
Renner’s daughter Iris Renner, who plays Anne’s adoptive guardian Marilla Cuthbert, said audiences will find the play entertaining as the scenes are almost their own fun, self-contained skits.
Still, her father added, “Anne of Green Gables” offers more realism and less hoopla than another production about a similarly named orphan, “Annie.” Audiences will feel with “Anne of Green Gables.”
“This story here, it has some laughs, but it is definitely one that at the end should put you in tears,” he said.
The cast ranges from ages 8 to 18. New London’s actors are: Bailee Baxter, Trevor Bohringer, Kaylee Bryan, Zoe Buss, Alyssa Collar, Rayna Friebohle, Storm Handrich, Anna Hoeck, Allie Kloehn, Owjen Martinez, Mat Monty, Ava Neely, Adrianna Nyland, Makenzie Nyland, Joel Perez, Bailey Polsin, Sevannah Polsin, Raeann Radcliffe, Iris Renner, Rachel Schuler, Alyson Stilen, Kathryn Tiegs, Peyton Walz and Blaike Zwiers.