Charlotte’s Web opens at Canebrake Friday

Cast members (L-R) Luke Lindsay, Sierra Goldman, Katelyn Beshears, Tristan Mullen and Allison Polk (lying down) rehearse for the upcoming Canebrake production of Charlotte's Web.

Cast members (L-R) Luke Lindsay, Sierra Goldman, Katelyn Beshears, Tristan Mullen and Allison Polk (lying down) rehearse for the upcoming Canebrake production of Charlotte’s Web.

Stretching four-limbed children into eight-legged spiders; figuring out how to weave words in a spider web in front of an audience; corralling 35 children into order.

Jennifer Roemen has found her place in the theater.

A veteran of Canebrake Player productions both in front of the lights and behind the curtains, Roemen would rather make costumes and create sets for a living.

Since that’s not possible she lets her creativity soar. “[The job] interferes with this,” she joked.

Now she is directing “Charlotte’s Web,” based on the beloved children’s book.

The play will be held Friday, Feb. 1, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 3, at 2 p.m., and Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 4 and 5, at 6 p.m. in the Old School Theater.

Most of the cast of students from 7 to 18 portray farm animals, so dressing them is a major challenge.

“I don’t want a Halloween costume that looks like an animal,” Roemen said.

Instead she drew on characteristics of the animals to create the costumes. The character of Rat, for example, not only sports a long and twisty tail but is dressed in ragged, “ratty” clothes.

In the Old School Theater’s sewing room, Roemen demonstrated how she took elements from photos of animals and adapted them to the characters’ costumes. She scoured the vast Canebrake Players’ wardrobe collection for ideas and materials.

“To me the details make a difference,” she said. “Until I’m happy with them, they’re not going on stage.”

When researching ideas for the production of the children’s production in December, Roemen came across “Charlotte’s Web.” Since so many children tried out for the previous production that couldn’t be cast, and “Junie Jones” turned out to be such a success, Roemen offered to direct a second children’s play back-to-back. Usually the Canebrake Players put on only one children’s show a year, but Roemen didn’t want those children to have to wait a year for another chance to go on stage.

“There are so many (children) in this show that have never been in one,” she said.

What especially pleases the director is that so many students want to work back stage as stage managers, running the lighting or sound or in other roles.

“Junie Jones” had an all-student crew. Except for sound effects, so does “Charlotte’s Web.”

In this production Roemen didn’t have to worry about casting boys in boy roles or girls as girls. “It doesn’t make a difference,” she said, since most are farm animals.

“’Charlotte’s Web’” is a show about friendship. It’s so touching,” said Roemen. Charlotte, the spider, and Wilbur, the pig, are very different but become good friends. Wilbur doesn’t think there’s a purpose to his life, but Charlotte helps him to see things differently.

Roemen helped her cast of children understand that they are storytellers.

“There’s a real story in it, and (the children) tell it very well.” said Roemen.

To help them tell that story Roemen has drawn on a speech therapist to help the children learn to speak clearly on stage and Kirk Brooker, who has directed plays locally and in Thomasville, to “tweak” the production.