The Disney universe does not contain a princess who belches and farts, but The Evergreen Playhouse in Centralia will when it plays host to the Theatre of Arts Discipline (TOAD) summer camp production of “Once Upon a Mattress” beginning Friday evening.
The musical comedy, written in the late 1950s as a farcical adaptation of “The Princess and the Pea” by Hans Christian Andersen, stars Princess Winnifred the Woebegone, a brash and unrefined woman who battles the overbearing Queen Aggravain in pursuit of her son, Prince Dauntless. Musical numbers include “The Swamps of Home,” “Normandy” and “Man to Man Talk.”
More than 30 performers ranging from 6 to 16 years of age will put on the show following three weeks of all-encompassing theater camp led by TOAD co-founders Rich and Kris Garrett. Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, followed by a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee at The Evergreen Playhouse. Tickets cost $10 for adults and $5 for students.
“The play carries a very modern societal message that you don’t have to fit someone’s cookie cutter to be successful and find the right person,” Rich Garrett said. “All you have to do is be a human being and allow yourself to love each other. I think it carries a great message for the students and even has a couple of numbers about female empowerment and bucking the system.”
Garrett and musical director Brynn Walker said Tuesday that the company chose “Once Upon a Mattress” for its summer camp program because it fits will within their mission of introducing young actors and actresses to all aspects of the theater arts.
Campers went through a general audition process on the first day of camp in mid-July. They learned their lines and the music during the first week of camp, then spent dozens of hours rehearsing while also playing games and getting hands-on experience with more than just the script.
“We learn acting techniques, how to maintain and sew costumes, and how to paint and do things with set construction,” Rich Garrett said. “The camp runs for 6 hours each day, so there’s a lot of repetition and rehearsing on the set. It becomes a lot of muscle memory for the kids.”
This weekend will mark the end of the third edition of TOAD’s summer theater camp in Lewis County. The Garretts founded the company in Nevada before moving to Washington. Enrollment has grown from five students in 2017 to 36 this year; Rich Garrett expects to hold two camps next summer to account for continued growth.
This is also the first year the camp carries a title sponsor — Tiki Tap House. Other local businesses have pitched in to sponsor camp shirts and other aspects of TOAD to benefit the local youth arts community.
The goal of the camp, Garrett and Walker said, is not to highlight the best actors in the troupe, but to put all the performers in a position to grow and succeed on stage. That may mean casting roles in a way that pairs up students who play well off each other, or putting the youngest actors in scenes where they can feed off their older, more experienced costars.
“When we sit down and look at our company and what we want to put on is that yes, we do plays, but we want to find something that isn’t just a vehicle for one or two people,” Rich Garrett said. “We want to provide the best experience for all involved. For this particular play, it’s one I’ve directed before, and it has a lot of different roles for boys and girls that can be played by both boys and girls. It’s not your standard princess story.”
For more information and to purchase advance tickets, visit toadtheatre.com