'Shadow of the Cat'

Indiana Jones meets Sam Spade in this year's Ashland Children's Theatre production "Shadow of the Cat," offering two shows on Saturday that wrap up a two-week summer drama camp for kids.

Written by ACT director Eve Smyth, "Shadow of the Cat" is a dark but humorous tale involving familiar film noir archetypes: the hard-boiled detective, the capable gal, mysterious foreigners, a sultry nightclub singer, a murdered archaeologist — and a missing package of great value, Smyth says.

The variety of roles gives young thespians a chance to expand their talents, with girls (who outnumber the boys) often playing wise-cracking thugs, says producer Kate Sullivan.

"Think 'The Big Sleep,' 'Double Indemnity' and 'Maltese Falcon' in the 1940s and you've got the picture," says Sullivan, after directing the cast in warm-up vocal expressions, yelps and growls Tuesday.

Cast and crew, from age 4 to adult, put together the entire production, including props and costumes, in two weeks. The play will be performed at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, at Ashland Community Center, 59 Winburn Way, across from Lithia Park. Admission costs $5.

Ashland Children's Theatre has been doing summer camps for eight years.

"I really like acting," says Autumn Henderson-Brazie, who dons an androgynous suit in the show. "I was the star here last year. Now I'm a veteran and help the younger kids with accents and other skills."

Preston Mead, 12, plays the smooth-talking detective while Amelia Sorensen, 13, plays the gorgeous "damsel-in-distress who's rich, knows what she wants and how to get it, but discreetly," Amelia says.

They're all searching for a statue of the Egyptian cat-goddess Bastet, but the audience isn't told why — at least not at first.

After eight seasons with the company, Amelia says, "I've found my love — acting — and I want to go on and make it my career, on stage and in the movies."

Other actors are Cadaxa Chapman Ball, Audrey Cirzan, Kaelin Rodriguez, Britney Rutkai, Liam Thompson, McKenzie Baratta, Kailey Breiholz, Isabel Enns, Megan Kim, Aidan Peterson, Leo Pierotti and Alex Webb.

The company also stages workshops and plays in fall, winter and spring. More information is at www.ashlandchildrenstheatre.com.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

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