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FAMILY: Ventura County | FOR THE KIDS

The Sibling Dilemma

Judy Blume's book about a boy and his pesky brother plays out on the stage.


If there's a fourth-grader in your family, skip right to the bottom of this story and find the phone number for reservations to "Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing."

For decades, Judy Blume's book has provided comfort and joy to 9-year-olds with troublesome younger siblings. An adaptation for the stage comes to the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza at 7 p.m. Friday.

The play, suitable for kids 7 and older, is performed by the national touring company of the Kennedy Center Theater Lab and is being presented locally by Performances to Grow On, a local theatrical series operator.

The story, as many folks know, is the saga of Peter Hatcher, 9, who has an "impossible" younger brother named Fudge, age 3.

As with his namesake confection, this little brother is best experienced in moderate doses.

Unfortunately, Peter has to endure huge doses of this little terror. Despite Peter's best efforts to resist, dodge or escape Fudge's embarrassing antics, Peter always ends up mortified--feeling like a nothing.

In the stage version--adapted by Bruce Mason--a cast of six adults plays all 17 characters in the story.

At 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds, Jeff Keenan plays Fudge by exaggerating his expressions and movements in a style that kids will probably find hilarious.

When Keenan originated the role at the Kennedy Center, the Washington Post reviewer wrote: "He captures Fudge's adorableness and innocent monstrousness to perfection [and] looks thoroughly fetching in his massive overalls with a sailboat emblazoned on his bib."

That review also included the rather mordant observation that the actors portraying Mom and Dad "play them as rather goofy, clueless parents, just the way a fourth-grader would see them."

Now, for fourth-graders with a different kind of preoccupation--such as serious artistic aspirations--there's something else of interest happening Friday.

It's the launch of a four-session series of after-school art lessons at the Carnegie Art Museum in Oxnard.

The main purpose of the program, according to the museum's education director Holly Wolson, is "to give students living in the downtown neighborhoods an opportunity to seriously study art."

The classes, funded by a grant from the Procter & Gamble Fund, will concentrate on drawing.

They are free, and a wide array of drawing materials--pencils, crayons, pastels and markers--will be provided for students.

Fillmore-based artist Jesus "Chuy" Rangel, whose works have been exhibited in Ventura County as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco, will be the teacher.

Students must be in the fourth or fifth grade and must pre-enroll.

Class size will be limited to 25, and reservations are on a first-come basis. Wolson says, however, that priority will be given to students living in neighborhoods near the museum.

"Should a student have repeated absences or develop unsolvable behavior problems, the museum reserves the right to give the student's space to another," she added. In other words, she'll be compiling a waiting list for the program.


"Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing," Friday, 7 p.m., Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza Auditorium, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd., $16, $12 children. (805) 650-9688 or (805) 583-8700.

Purely Drawing art classes, Carnegie Art Museum, 424 South C St., Oxnard. Friday, 3-4:30 p.m. Continuing Jan. 16, 30 and Feb. 6. Reservations required. Free. (805) 385-8157.

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