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FOR THE KIDS : 'Velveteen Rabbit' Will Come to Life : Cal Lutheran's Children's Theatre will present the play based on the classic story about friendship.


"The Velveteen Rabbit," that classic story about the stuffed bunny who comes to life, is back again--this time on stage.

California Lutheran University's Children's Theatre is doing a stage version of the story, written in 1922 by Margery Wilson. The production opens this weekend and runs Saturdays and Sundays through March 27.

In case you missed the original story, it's about a 4-year-old boy who gets a stuffed rabbit for Christmas. The bunny becomes his favorite toy--so cherished that the animal becomes real to him.

When the boy contracts scarlet fever, his doctor orders the bunny destroyed because it is full of germs. How the rabbit escapes gives the story a poignant ending.

The play doesn't follow the story exactly. In this version, the boy is actually a girl named Stephanie, who, as an adult, is looking back 20 years on her childhood to the time she received the velveteen rabbit as a birthday gift.

"It's the same story line," said Ken Gardner, assistant drama professor at the university and the play's director. It still delivers a message about friendship.

The play, written by James Still, has more dialogue, though, and a more contemporary feel. Gone is the nanny of the original story, replaced by parents who are heard but not seen. And the play includes a dance performed by the wild rabbits in the story.

The cast of 10 are CLU students, half of them drama majors. The older Stephanie, played by Ann Catalano of Fillmore, serves as the production's narrator. The younger Stephanie is Michelle Murray of Newbury Park. Holly Forsell of Santa Barbara plays the Velveteen Rabbit. Denise Santoyo of Oxnard is a doll in the child's bedroom. The set and the costumes were designed by students.

The play runs 50 to 60 minutes and will be presented in the Preus-Brandt Forum on the Thousand Oaks campus. It's the second of two productions a year that the Children's Theatre puts on. This season marks the 27th year that the Thousand Oaks chapter of the American Assn. of University Women has backed the productions.


In Santa Barbara County, kids can tune into what's happening locally on the cultural arts scene through a program called Kids' Passport to the Arts. After nearly two years in operation, the program is now expanding into Ventura County.

Here's how it works. Kids join free and receive a monthly newsletter called "The Passport Express" that tells them about upcoming events they might be interested in, like a symphony concert or a museum exhibit.

The two-page newsletter is written mostly by kids 9 to 15 years old. It also includes reviews written by the young reporters, upcoming audition opportunities and a craft idea headlined "Just Do It."

So far, more than 2,000 kids in the Santa Barbara area get the newsletter in the mail. When they sign up, they also get a passport they can get stamped at cultural events.

Some 24 participating cultural organizations help fund the program. They also give ticket discounts to young members who attend their events.

Ricki Mazzullo, who runs the program, said it is just beginning to expand into Ventura County. Ojai Festivals Ltd. and Ventura Children's Festival have signed on, and she expects that more will follow. She is looking for young reporters in Ventura County to help with the newsletter.

Kids' Passport to the Arts is funded in part by the Arts Partnership Grants Program, an offering of the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission. The idea behind the program is to make the arts more accessible to kids, and less costly.

For information, call 564-7230.


Magic will be in the air Friday night at Moorpark High School. A cast of magicians who perform at Hollywood's Magic Castle will put on a show to benefit Moorpark's special education department. Show time is 7:30 p.m. The school is at 4500 Tierra Rejada Road. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children under 12.


* WHAT: "The Velveteen Rabbit," a Children's Theatre production of California Lutheran University.

* WHERE: Preus-Brandt Forum on the campus of Cal Lutheran, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks.

* WHEN: 1 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 3 p.m. Sunday, and 1 and 3 p.m. March 26 and March 27.

* COST: Tickets are $3.

* ETC: Call 493-4483 evenings, or 495-4798.

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