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March 14, 2003

Students to perform Dahl's chocolate tale

From: Hampshire Gazette, MA - 14 Mar 2003

By RYAN DAVIS, Staff Writer
Friday, March 14, 2003 -- NORTHAMPTON - The Galbraith Center at Clarke School for the Deaf will be transformed into the magical, mysterious world of candy tycoon Willy Wonka tonight as students put on a production of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

The school's drama club has been working on the play since January, learning lines, designing and building sets and converting the stage into a fantastical world complete with giant lollipops and chocolate bars, and strange contraptions.

The adaptation of Roald Dahl's book about children who win a trip to Wonka's factory by finding golden tickets in candy bars will be staged at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. today. Tickets are $4 for adults and $2 for children.

Two large screens on either side of the stage will broadcast the performance with closed-captioning for hearing-impaired audience members.

The actors said the play has taught them about performing and bolstered their speaking skills, a key mission of Clarke School.

"I want to be an actor when I grow up, so I want to show people I'm good at acting," said Patrick deHahn, 12, from Belchertown. Patrick plays Mike Teavee, a boy whose obsession with television gets him into trouble at the factory.

The lead role of Willy Wonka went to Raeden Zavis, 12, of Florence. She said "it was weird to memorize that many lines," especially because in last year's production of "Mary Poppins," she played a dog.

"When I found out I was going to be Willy Wonka, I was shocked," she said. "I didn't expect to have such a big, huge role."

Maggie Mannix, 12, of Springfield, plays an Oompa-Loompa, one of Wonka's helpers. She said the role has helped her learn to speak better.

"I go to my speech teacher and she helps me with my lines," she said. "When I read the words, I have to feel the character."

Maggie said she was nervous about going on stage because "I don't like when people stare at me. But I have to try my best."

Lisa DiMaria, an audiologist at the school and the play's artistic director, said the students' hearing impairments haven't been an obstacle to the production.

"I don't think it's any more challenging than dealing with hearing kids," she said. "These kids are really on the ball and have got their act together."

The annual Clarke School play continues a 12-year tradition that involves the entire school community. Art classes help build the sets, staff pitch in with sound and lighting and parents make snacks to sell during intermission.

Ryan Davis can be reached at

© 2003 Daily Hampshire Gazette