Players of the Stage to perform ‘Oliver Twist’
Players of the Stage, a local Christian theater group, will present “Oliver Twist” Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1, 6, 7 and 8 at Living Hope Presbyterian Church, Lower Macungie Township.
The play, based on Charles Dickens’ novel, was adapted by Joellen Bland.
Oliver Twist, born in a parish workhouse, spends the first nine years of his life in the care of Mrs. Mann before Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, puts him to work picking and weaving oakum.
Johnny Renzi, 10, of Upper Hanover Township, Montgomery County, is a member of Cast 1. Parkland student Sal Boccadoro, 13, of South Whitehall, is in Cast 2. Both portray Oliver Twist.
Renzi describes Oliver Twist as a poor orphan who is trusting, kind, innocent and is often mistreated.
“I enjoy the rags to riches aspect of this character,” he said. “It’s fun to be misled into mischievous situations.”
Renzi said this is one of his favorite stories and playing the part of Oliver has been an incredible experience for him.
“Last year, when I heard Players of the Stage was planning to do ‘Oliver Twist,’ I knew I wanted to audition,” he said. “I was thrilled to be cast as Oliver. I’m thankful God has given me the ability to act.”
Boccadoro said Oliver was born into the world as an orphan.
“I would describe Oliver as a kind, shy and commendable child,” he said. “His whole life, he has almost done nothing wrong but is always treated as he did. He looks to the bright side for most issues especially for the situation at Mr. Bumble’s and is just an all around good kid.”
Boccadoro said he can relate to Oliver Twist.
“When he makes his decisions not to steal and to run away from Mr. Bumble, I feel as if I’d do the same,” Boccadoro said. “I also really love to play this story out in front of all these people to possibly introduce them to Players of the Stage and the authors of these stories.”
The play is directed by Sharon Barshinger. Her sister, Marian Barshinger, is the stage manager.
Sharon Barshinger said she chose “Oliver Twist” because it is a beautiful story about the rescue of a young boy who is cast off by society to be used and exploited.
“It has a lot of power and relevance to issues we are facing in our culture today,” she said. “Child slavery is a big problem, even in the Valley, and I think it’s easy to look the other way and pretend it doesn’t exist or to think there’s nothing we can do.
“I hope Oliver Twist will challenge all of those responses.
“There was a lot of cruelty and disdain and dehumanizing behavior toward the poor in workhouses and so when Oliver is 10 years old, he runs away to try to find freedom.
“It’s a journey that is much harder for him to succeed at then he expected and ultimately requires the sacrifice of someone else for him to be free.”
Proceeds from the show are going to the Allentown Rescue Mission.
“We typically partner with them for the December show,” she said. “But I think it is also a good fit from the perspective this show deals with how we view and treat the poor and the dangers they face and the responsibility we have to helping them.
“And, the Allentown Rescue Mission is a really important organization in the Valley leading the way in assisting those in need in our area.”
Beth Barshinger, Sharon and Marian’s mother, said the show has two casts with a total of 64 students ranging in age from 7-18.
“We have students from six different counties,” she said. “We are a unique theater in the sense we don’t charge for tickets but ask for a donation,” Beth Barshinger said. “In the last 11 shows we have staged for the Allentown Rescue Mission, we raised just under $125,000.
“Oliver Twist” will be performed 7 p.m. on Nov. 29, 30; and Dec. 1, 6, 7 and 8; and also at 2 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8.
All performances will be at Living Hope Presbyterian Church, 330 Schantz Road, Lower Macungie Township.
Tickets for all performances are free but reservations are required.
For tickets, call 610-310-7604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about Players of the Stage, visit playersofthestage.com.