What: “Little House on the Prairie: Mary's Story”
When: 7 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Arts United Center, 303 E. Main St.
Cost: $17, adults; and $11, ages 18 and under, ages 60 and older, and per person in groups of 10 or more. Tickets are available at 422-4226; https://tickets.artstix.org or at the ArtsTix Community Box office, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and noon-4 p.m. Saturdays at the Art United Center.
Note: A Little Picnic on the Prairie pre-show party will be offered at 6 p.m. Friday at the Arts United Center. Food provided by Subway; drinks by Five Star Distributing. Cost: Adults, $10 (includes wine & beer); and children, $5.
In only her third Fort Wayne Youtheatre production, Emma Poor hopes to transform the role of Mary Ingalls before our very eyes — with the use of her eyes.
“Little House on the Prairie: Mary's Story” gives the audience a glimpse into the life of Ingalls before and after her blindness this weekend at the Arts United Center.
Poor, 14, feels a special bond with Ingalls as she has read the “Little House on the Prairie” book series multiple times and has researched the part of Mary, including details about the school for the blind she attended. Poor has shared this information with director Gregory Stieber, who also wrote the script.
“A lot of us grew up with the TV show,” Stieber said. “Season after season, the show was embellished more and more. The books were not as embellished or as dramatic.”
Though the TV series depicted Mary's blindness suddenly, in actuality she went blind gradually. While the books and TV series attribute the cause to scarlet fever, research indicates scarlet fever does not cause blindness.
“She just had something wrong with her brain … her eyes,” Poor said.
Stieber said clients of the League for the Blind and Disabled have assisted the actors during practices by sharing their stories and how they've overcome challenges.
“You don't know how much you take your sight for granted until you don't have it,” Poor said. “It's a challenge I'm ready for.”
Poor, a ninth-grader at Homestead High School, also feels her gentle and caring personality has helped her obtain this role.
She previously was Rose the talking flower in “Snow Queen” and a royal court person and a villager in “Anansi the Spider,” both for Youtheatre. She appeared in school plays every year while attending Summit Middle School. She has participated in Latin Club since seventh grade and plans to join Homestead's Drama Club.
She performed in the Fort Wayne Children's Choir as a seventh-grader; however, she fell in love with acting.
“I felt I was more suited to acting,” she said. “I've decided this is where I want to be.”
Poor did not find out until after she was cast that 98 actors had auditioned for the 25 available “Little House” roles.
Stieber had to rewrite the play that weekend to create roles for an additional 20 children. Normally, about 40 audition for a play.
“I had probably 10 good Marys,” he said. “As a director, that is a good problem to have.”
Choirs from Canterbury and Weisser Park schools also will perform songs interwoven throughout the play.
Poor said a unique feature of the play is the slow-motion movement of actors behind her as she delivers monologues — which friends have helped her to memorize — to the audience.
“When you have that many people on stage, I've chosen a style where the main character is in regular motion and background is in slow motion — one movement to represent her town she's about to leave,” Stieber said.
“Being a contributing member of society was important to her,” Stieber said. “In the 1800s where they were in the country, she could have been a shut-in. She left home to go to the blind school and learn how to adapt. That's what we're demonstrating in this. Instead of her family taking care of her, she took care of them. She was an inspiration.”