Taking a humorously local spin on the traditional nursery tale, the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society will present the pantomime "Puss in Boots and the Marquis of Carrabas" in three performances Friday and Saturday at Kennett High School.The theatrical production is the seventh annual pantomime put on by KATS, completely relying on local amateur talent in its writing, casting and production. Gary Smith, a founding member of KATS and the writer/director of most of the past pantomimes, also wrote this year's pantomime, directs the production and wrote the music and lyrics with Phil Calabrese.

The cast is huge this year with 41 adults and children. Including crew and administration, the program lists over 100 local participants, ages 5 to 80-something. "We are quite lucky in our society," society," Smith said. "We tend to keep the people we recruit." Pantomimes, though perhaps unfamiliar to many Americans, are becoming very popular in Kennett Square where they are now a regular event of the New Year. The theatrical production follows conventions steeped in 700 years of British tradition, with a stereotypical plot based on very familiar stories. Contrary to popular belief, they involve no miming. They are musical comedies based on fairytales, with men playing women and women playing men, generally. This year, as always, there will be a comic duo and a king and queen. KATS puts on three performances in three acts.

In previous years the theatrical society has experimented with some modern touches to the ancient art. But this year, Smith said, "We are returning to our roots a bit, to go for a much more simple, straightforward pantomime with charming music and a traditional story. It should be fun."

On its Web site KATS described the show plot as follows: "The Queen Kampanula, mother to the curvy Katherine (called Kat by her current companions), lives in the colossal keep in the castle in the capitol of the Kingdom of Kennett and is consort to kindly King Kanute. She has probably never heard of Dame Ava Bigger (widow of this Parish and very big around these parts). Dame Ava has three sons, Henry, Evan and Much (see where we're going with this?) Queen Kampanula has certainly never heard of Gwendolinda, the good (she says) fairy, who is sister to Barnaby, an ogre, who lives in Carrabas Castle on the margins of the Kingdom of Kennett. Everybody wants something: Barnaby wants to be left in peace, Gwendolinda wants Carrabas castle, Much wants his inheritance, Kat (Princess Katherine) wants the servants to have one day off each year (and cake on Sundays). But not everyone can get what they want (that's called dramatic tension), especially if they have been changed into a puss in boots."

Candy Craig plays Princess Katherine; Cathy Walsh plays the principal boy; the dame is played by Kirk Fetters, again; and Clarke Green plays the Ogre; and Sandra Borror-Jury plays the villainess.

Costuming will be in the "full fairy story book illustration style,"

Smith said.

Themes for future pantomimes have been set for KATS through 2011. The process is a long one. Before real writing begins, a four-page proposal has to be accepted by the KATS board of directors. Smith said writing usually begins soon after the curtains come down in January and should be finalized by March. By the time auditions occur in August, the script and most of the songs are complete. Rehearsals begin in October.

Smith himself is off the hook for years to come. Next year's pantomime will be written by Clarke Green, and the 2010 show will be written by a consortium of writers. Due to KATS' policy of rotating through and learning other theater duties, he speculated that whatever he is in for next might be just as daunting as writing. His wife Caroline, who has handled a myriad of jobs and holds the permanent position of theater administrator, plays the part this year of prop mistress.

Performances of "Puss in Boots and the Marquis of Carrabas" will be held Friday, Jan. 11 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Kennett High School. Evening performance tickets cost $8 for adults and $4 for children under 12. Matinee tickets cost $6 for adults and $3 for children. For tickets, call 610-444-3815. For more information, visit the Website www.callkats.org.

? To contact Prue Osborn, email prueosborn@aol.com.

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