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The modern phrase is “blended families,” a family with a parent who has been married before and has lost a spouse through divorce or death. Depending on what source is consulted, a third to half of all children in the United States today will be part of blended families before they reach the age of 18.
“Sarah, Plain and Tall,” is about such a family and 12-year-old Anna’s struggle to accept Sarah, who is on a one-month probation as a sort of “mail-order bride” to marry Sarah’s widowed father. The story comes from author Patricia MacLachlan’s experiences working with foster mothers. She tenderly takes on family issues from the viewpoint of children in this book and its sequels, “Skylark,” “Caleb’s Story,” “More Perfect Than the Moon” and “Grandfathers Dance.”
Mimi Adams, who directs the stage version of “Sarah, Plain and Tall” for Los Alamos Little Theatre, hopes people will go on and read all the stories in the series. “I want to inspire people to read,” she said. “I wanted to direct the play because Anna’s story resonated with me.
“My father died when I was 6. When a parent dies, it’s something that sticks with you the rest of your life. It’s comforting knowing that someone, the author in this case, understands that.”
Adams said that Joseph Robinette, who adapted the book for the theater, added dramatic tension between Anna and Sarah. Anna must deal with her regrets over not saying good-bye to her mother before she can accept Sarah as her “new mother.” Sarah wisely tells Anna she doesn’t want to take her mother’s place, but “would like to have the opportunity to take a place next to her” in Anna’s heart.
There is tension between the adults also. In the Kansas farmlands of the early 1900s, a woman didn’t usually wear overalls, competently hitch a difficult horse to the wagon, shingle the roof or rearrange the family’s schedules without first asking the man of the house. All this Sarah does, and it makes Jacob very uncomfortable.
He has to decide if he can marry and live the rest of his life with this nontraditional, strong-willed woman.
Real-life couple Scot and Silvie Johnson plays Jacob and Sarah. Stacia Paglieri plays the part of young Anna, and Sequoyah Adams-Rice plays her little brother Caleb. Director Adams said, “Silvie and Scot (naturally) had great chemistry at the auditions, and Silvie is really tall.” She added, “Both kids are experienced on stage and had excellent auditions.”
The production includes a mix of experienced actors and newcomers. Several olios entertain the audience during costume changes. Adams said, “I wanted to provide opportunities for as many children and adults as possible to participate and be onstage.”
Others in the cast are Alice Corrigan as Adult Anna; Larry Gibbons, Roxanne Tapia, Emily Hopkins, and Ali Berl as neighbors; Warren Houghteling and Grace Louise as Sarah’s brother and sister-in-law; with a number of other adults and children playing small parts.
“Sarah, Plain and Tall” is suitable for all ages. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and May 22 and at 2 p.m. Saturday and May 23. Tickets cost $12 general admission, $10 students and seniors and are available at CB Fox or at the door. For reservations call 662-3858.