"Charlotte's Web" is a two-act play penned by Joseph Robinette based on the beloved children's book written by E. B. White.
On the surface, "Charlotte's Web" is a tale about the relationship between a young girl, a certain pig and a mysterious, magical spider.
However, there is also an undercurrent to this story that encompasses many other virtues including friendship, courage, loyalty and dependability.
The plot of "Charlotte's Web" is launched when a litter of pigs is born on the Arable farm.
One of the litter happens to be a runt (Grace Galles) and right from the start, the piglet's survival is in doubt when Farmer Arable (Roman Galles) decides to save the time, trouble and swill by sending the runt to the porcine equivalent of the happy hunting grounds via the business end of his ax.
Luckily, the farmer's daughter Fern (Taylor Anstine) intervenes and saves the pig from its untimely demise.
With the application of a few doses of medicine, some second and third helpings at the dinner trough and a lot of TLC, Fern pulls her barnyard patient through its crisis to the point where he's a pretty fair-sized pig.
She names him Wilbur.
Soon, Wilbur's care is transferred to the Zuckerman farm where he makes the acquaintance of the resident barnyard denizens Sheep (Amanda Klaschen,) Goose (Rachel Stewart,) Gander (Kendra Johnson,) Templeton the Rat (Kyle Roepke,) Lamb (Kaylee Campbell) and Charlotte the spider and resident guru.
As his friendship with Charlotte the spider and the other animals grows, so does Wilbur...to the point where his longevity is once again on the shaky side.
After all, when Fern looked at Wilbur she saw a pet.
Unfortunately, however, when Uncle Homer (Michael Nafe,) Aunt Edith (Trina Stewart) and Lurvey (Kiley Klaschen) Zuckerman gazed upon Wilbur, they saw bacon, ham and pork chops!
Wilbur is saved from a one way trip to the butcher block by the intervention of his friend Charlotte who weaves mysterious messages like "Terrific" and "Some Pig" into her web for all to see.
Because of those messages, Wilbur becomes somewhat of a local celebrity and is soon headed for the county fair.
Although he doesn't win the blue ribbon, because of Charlotte's help and advice, Wilbur is awarded the singular honor as a "Most Exceptional Pig."
Although his future is now assured, Wilbur is faced with a sad and bittersweet moment when he discovers that Charlotte is nearing the end of her life span and will not be making the trip back home.
Learning a lot about love and grief at that moment, Wilbur also displays an unswerving loyalty to his friend Charlotte when he takes charge of her sack of spider eggs, takes them back home and watches over them until they hatch.
Assuring that there will be other Charlottes for generations to come, the play ends on an upbeat moment that will lift the spirits of young and old alike.
"Charlotte's Web" is skillfully directed by Marti Meisner who has artfully assembled a sizable cast for this one.
The play features 19 talented young thespians from several school districts including River Valley, Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn and Kingsley-Pierson.
Although all these young actors turn in duties above and beyond, there are a couple of standouts in the production.
Grace Galles is an absolute knockout as Wilbur. She has taken the measure of her character and nailed it right on the barnyard floor.
Although it is not an exceptionally large role, Roman Galles plays the character John Arable to laconic perfection.
McKenze Carlson as Charlotte the spider does an exceptional job as she portrays her character with just the proper degree of pathos that prevents things from becoming maudlin.
Taylor Anstine as Wilbur's friend and guardian angel Fern Arable displays a lot charisma in her role and will undoubtedly prove to be an audience favorite.
All in all, as you watch the talent displayed in this production you can't help but get the feeling that there are going to be some powerhouse players on IHSSA speech teams at a few school districts around these parts in the near future.
"Charlotte's Web" will be presented at the Old Barn during the Grand Meadow Heritage Festival.
Curtain times for the play will be at 4 p.m. on September 12 and at 3 p.m. on September 13.
Take my word for it, you will not want to miss this one so be there early.
Tickets may be purchased at the door and seating is limited.
Oh, yeah...be careful and don't be stepping on any spiders, either...
They just might be Charlotte's young'uns.
The Grand Meadow Heritage Center is located at the junction of L-36 and 630th Street in rural Washta.
It is approximately 17 miles south of Marcus on L-36 or four miles west of Washta on C-66 and 2 miles north on L-36.
For photos of the production of 'Charlotte's Web,' see the Grand Meadow Play Photo Gallery.