The relatively unmined trove of Eskimo folklore is the basis of "The Ice Wolf," now being performed at the Santa Paula Theater Center under the auspices of the 10-year-old Hundred Hats Theater for Young People organization.
Acted by--and ostensibly created for--children, Joanna Halpert Kraus' play could prove to be of interest to adults as well.
The themes of revenge and redemption by a protagonist who is a social outcast transcend regional tradition, and the story could prompt some interesting intergenerational dinner-table dialogue.
An Eskimo woman gives birth to an albino daughter, who is promptly rejected by the other adults and children in the tribe. They accuse the white-skinned girl of witchcraft and blame her for all their troubles. When her parents disappear on a hunting expedition, Anatou banishes herself to the forbidden forest, where the owl-like Wood God turns her into the Ice Wolf.
And then the fun begins. . . .
A cast of nearly 20 youths, aged 10 to 15, interprets the story under the direction of Terry Brenner-Farrell, who also choreographed the dance sequences, and Leslie Flanders Carson, also credited with set design.
The sets, props and costumes are largely authentic, in many cases based on designs in the Gene Autry Museum's current "Crossroads of Continents" exhibit of Alaskan and Siberian tribal art.
Kelly Odle stars as Anatou, who is transformed in the second act to the Ice Wolf, played by Celeste Olcutt, an actress who chews up the scenery with as much enthusiasm as she gobbles her former tribe-mates. (There is a reason for this double-casting: both characters appear onstage simultaneously at one point).
Jamie Mulligan-Smith is the Wood God (or Goddess, it's hard to tell under all those feathers), and J'lene Melchior and Renee Schauer are featured as Anatou's parents. Christopher Mueller plays Terto, Anatou's one friend; his mother, Sally Mueller, is credited with mask design and construction.
The music and various imaginative animal sounds were created on a synthesizer by Edward Wahl.
WHERE AND WHEN
"The Ice Wolf" continues today through Sunday at the Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St., Santa Paula. Performances are at 4 p.m. this afternoon, 7 p.m. tomorrow and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $5, or $3 for children under 6. For reservations or further information, call (805) 525-4645.