Published Date Written by Timothy Gillis
Sometimes it's that personal connection that makes a difference. A
relative to E.B. White helped fuel the acting inspiration of East End
Community School student Sadie Cross.
Cross said she was inspired by E.B. White’s granddaughter, Martha
White, who spoke at the University of Southern Maine about her famous
relative, his writing and her own.
“She talked about when he started writing the books,” Cross said.
Cross can be seen filling dual roles in A Company of Girls'
production of “Charlotte’s Web” this weekend.
Cross, who plays Charlotte and Fern, said she does not prefer one
role to the other. “It’s sometimes confusing since I’m also in the
chorus, which tells the story, but I usually don’t mix up my lines,”
the 10-year-old actress said.
In addition to “Charlotte’s Web,” forever a favorite for children
of any generation, White also penned “The Trumpet of the Swan,” and
“Stuart Little” which, like the spider story, has found fame on the
stage and the big screen.
White lived on a salt-water farm in Maine, and was also an
accomplished essayist and grammarian. His co-authored “Elements of
Style” is still the writer’s bible. Children love him for his animal
books, though. And the cast of A Company of Girls revelled in dressing
as farm animals and carrying on human conversation.
Asked about her favorite part of the acting company, Cross said,
“You get to meet and make some great friends. You come here, you can
be yourself. Sometimes, at school, kids tease. It’s always safe here.
It’s really fun.”
Cross, in her third year with the company, previously played in
their productions “How the Children Stop the War” at the Studio
Theater and “Holes” at Portland Stage.
Although the cast is young, by Broadway standards, there is an
undeniable enthusiasm among the actresses, the stage crew, and the
50-plus people who turned out this past Thursday afternoon for the
opening show of A Company of Girls. Made up of mainly moms and young
daughters, the audience also featured a smattering of dads and
grandparents. The energy from the performance was equally felt by all.
For children, there is something magic and powerful about dressing
up as an animal, and the kids got right into it, decked out as a goose
and a gander that repeats itself, a sheep and a lamb, Templeton the
rat, Wilbur the pig, and, of course, Charlotte, the spider who saves
Wilbur’s life with the power of words.
A Company of Girls, the after-school theatre and arts-based
resiliency program for girls aged 8-18, is composed of different mixed
age ensembles and meets after school throughout the entire school
year. Each ensemble produces at least one play a year. Productions
have included “Eloise,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Cynderella Cycle,” “On
the Bench and Sticky Like a Frog,” and “A Wrinkle In Time,” according
to the website.
Working for the company is not easy, as the young actresses can
attest. Most of them play two or more roles, assuming different roles
on different days.
Gina Laramore-Jones plays Templeton, Uncle and Fern, and is also
in her third year with ACOG. She attends Presumpscot Elementary
School. She said her favorite aspect to acting was getting up on
stage. “I like having a good time, making people laugh,” she said.
Next up for Laramore-Jones is “Seussical, the Musical” put on by
Stages. She said she also likes ostriches, wherever she can find them
— in books or at the farm.
Cat Bernier and Kaylie LaCour are friends who love spending time
together at ACOG. Bernier, who plays Charlotte, the sheep, and the
chorus, goes to Hall Elementary School and is in her second year with
the company. LaCour plays Edith Zuckerman, goes to Lyman Moore Middle
School, and has been acting with ACOG for four years. “Everything is
all happy and exciting here,” Bernier said. “We can always do a new
project, and all the plays are fun.”
“This is a place where you can be safe, and hang out with your
friends,” LaCour added. Both stressed that it wasn’t all fun and
games, however. It is a lot of hard work, to memorize lines for
several characters, but persistence pays off. “The more rehearsals the
better. If you miss any, you don’t know where you are,” LaCour said.
Part of the Ensemble group for middle to high school girls, LaCour
is working on “Lord of the Flies” next. She plays Rachel, the female
version of Ralph from the William Golding novel. One of the signature
styles of the company is the way they interpret and reinvent
male-centered works through female perspectives. For example, they
produced “Queen Lear” to offer a female POV on the Shakespeare
regicide. The Fledgling group of the company is comprised of beginning
actresses, aged 8-11.
Mackenzie and Maiah Marles keep acting all in the family.
Mackenzie goes to Portland High School, and was in the company for
seven years. Even though she left the company three years ago, she
still has volunteered for the last two, and plays Mrs. Arable in the
play. She is involved in the musical theater class at Portland High,
as well as the Drama Club, which produced “The Curious Savage” most
recently. Her younger sister, Maiah Marles, has been with the company
for three years, since she was six.
“I left Charlotte on stage a little too early today,” Maiah says
of her day’s first performance. “She had to improv a little bit.” Not
deterred by the slight miscue, Maiah was buoyant about the next show
that evening. “I love the plays, when everybody finds out their parts.
When I heard I was going to play Wilbur, that was exciting!” Mackenzie
said she got into theater because she enjoys pretending to be someone
she’s really not. “The memorization is tough, but I’ve gotten used to
it. I get really nervous if a line is skipped. I’m not sure if I will
be able to pull myself back to where I’m supposed to be. Usually,
though, someone is pretty good at saving the scene.” The sisters
practice at home as much as possible, and thereby limit the potential
Jen Roe, the executive and artistic director of ACOG, is excited
about the power of this production company that uses the arts to
strengthen the minds and spirits of young girls. The company was
founded 16 years ago by Odelle Bowman, who stepped down last year.
Roe’s first year in this new position has been filled with exciting
“Strengthening and empowering youth benefits all of us in the
greater Portland area and beyond," states the theater company’s
brochure. "Resilient girls are better able to withstand the stress to
which they are subjected, can adapt to change, and can move through
adversity. That means we get safer, healthier, more prosperous
communities with lower crime rates, less substance abuse, and fewer
girls having babies before they reach their own adulthood."
A Company of Girls is performing “Charlotte’s Web,” adapted by
Joseph Robinette from E.B. White’s revered children’s book, at Studio
Theater at Portland Stage on May 4-6. Visit
http://www.acompanyofgirls.org for details.