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Where Families Can Get to the Art of the Matter


Taking a gutsy break from its usual children's literature-based fare, Serendipity Theatre Company is putting on Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," and doing a respectable job of it.

Make no mistake, this is a very modest production of Christopher Sergel's adaptation, and director Katy Realista's multi-scene staging doesn't always overcome the limited confines of the small Burbank Little Theatre.

Veronica Horton's sketchy set pieces, while serviceable, could be more interesting, and performances by the nine adult professionals and four youth actors don't dig deep enough below the emotional surface. But at a recent performance, the hush in the audience, as attorney Atticus (Doug Bedard) defends unjustly accused Tom Robinson (Tony Sanders) in the face of a town's ingrained racism, attests to the company's honorable commitment to this powerful drama.

Sanders is especially effective as Robinson taking the stand on his own behalf, and young Julie Hern-Fondation brings some fire to her role as his pathetic accuser.

Youth actors Jeremy Ronceros, Annie Preis and Lilly Hern-Fondation do admirably as Jem, Scout and Dill, the children who observe their neighbors' ugly side; Preis and Hern-Fondation alternate in the roles of Scout and Dill.

What doesn't work, at least what didn't work during an opening weekend show, is Scout's muffled, soft voice-over that opens and closes the show.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, set in a small, post-Depression-era Southern town, contains racial slurs and references to rape and is clearly not recommended for young children. For ages 10 and up, parents can offer some pre-performance preparation.

* "To Kill a Mockingbird," Burbank Little Theatre, George Izay Park, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Saturdays, 1 p.m.; Sundays, 1 and 4 p.m. through June 1. $8-$14. (818) 557-0505. Running time: 90 minutes.

William Joyce Sighting: Kids and adults who have been charmed by author-illustrator William Joyce's wildly imaginative books--"Dinosaur Bob," "A Day With Wilbur Robinson," "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs"--may want to make a stop at the Storyopolis art gallery and bookstore on Saturday. Joyce will be appearing there in a "Glorious Gorilla Gala" celebrating the publication of his newest creation, "Buddy," a retelling of the true story of an eccentric, '20s-era New York socialite and the baby gorilla she treated as if he were her child. (A movie based on the book opens June 6.)

On view through June 14 will be props from the movie and original book art, and Joyce will do readings and book signings.

* "Glorious Gorilla Gala," Storyopolis, 116 N. Robertson, Plaza A, Los Angeles, Saturday, 4 to 6 p.m. Free. (310) 358-2500.

Making Art: If your family would rather create art, check out the Museum of Contemporary Art's annual free "Family Day" on Sunday, featuring discussions of current exhibitions, an art-making workshop and refreshments. Aimed at elementary school-age children and older, activities revolve around the exhibition "Ellsworth Kelly: A Retrospective."

* "Family Day," Museum of Contemporary Art, California Plaza, 250 Grand Ave., Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m. Free, but reservations are required. (213) 621-1712.

Meow Alert: The Natural History Museum is celebrating its "Cats! Wild to Mild" exhibition with a "Feline Fun Day" on Saturday, four hours of cat-related activities, including kitty crafts and a scavenger hunt and encounters with an exotic Caracal cat and a Fishing Cat. The latter is native to Sumatra, South China and India and has slightly webbed paws. You can also "Ask a Vet" your cat care questions and listen to cat tales by storyteller Sylvia Kahn. There will even be live furry bundles to adopt.

* "Feline Fun Day," Natural History Museum, 900 Exposition Blvd., Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Museum admission: $6, adults; $3.50, seniors and students; $2.50, ages 5-12; under age 5, free. (213) 763-DINO.

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