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Kids struggle to survive in Depression-era tale in Folsom

By: Eileen Wilson, Telegraph Correspondent
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When it comes to children’s classics, no one does it better than Deanne Eldridge at T.H.E. Actor’s Workshop. And the Folsom theater company has another hit on their hands with their newest play, which is based on the kid-approved book series, “The Boxcar Children.” The story focuses on the original novel, which was written by Gertrude Warner in the 1920s. Warner continued the series, penning 19 novels, before other writers took over the franchise, creating over 100 titles throughout the years. Additional books include numerous mysteries and escapades, involving Henry, Jessie, Violet and Benny, orphans who find themselves living in a boxcar to avoid the youngest of the kids being sent to live in an orphanage. Though the story takes place almost 100 years ago, its lessons are very much relevant for modern folks. “The story is filled with optimism. It’s about four siblings who love each other and work with each other. It’s a really important model for families today,” Eldridge said. “Parents love the story because it models familial love.” Parents and grandparents also love the story for the nostalgia factor — they remember the novels from their own childhood. But it’s the kids in the audience who might enjoy the show most of all. Kids like watching young people perform, and will empathize with the hardships the Alden family has to overcome. “These are my junior high and high school students, and some alumnus, as well,” Eldridge said. Andrew Beck, who plays Henry, the eldest of the Alden orphans, enjoys being a role model to audience members, and also to kids in the cast. “I’m like the father of the group — the kids really look up to me, both onstage and off,” Beck said. At 14 years old, this will be Beck’s sixth show with the workshop — his home away from home. Of course, the book’s happy ending, thanks to the ingenuity and perseverance of the four protagonists, not to mention a friendly relative, will leave the audience with a warm glow, when they exit the theater. Eldridge appreciates the fact that the kids in the story have no fear. “It’s really empowering,” Eldridge said. “Too often in our society, people don’t give kids credit for how smart they are — how much they understand. The novel is appealing because of all of the mysteries that came out of the original story, but the story is especially appealing because of the kids’ can-do attitude. Our society doesn’t necessarily let kids think on their own.” Eldridge also love the story because it’s educational. “It’s set in the 1930s. The actors are learning what the Depression was like. The story gives people a perspective — if you think that times are hard today, it’s nothing like it was in the 1930s. The story is about helping people; it’s about giving to people when you don’t have much to give,” Eldridge said. Eldridge is passionate about historical fiction, and finds this show perfect for today’s times. “The story wasn’t ‘historic’ at the time it was written. Today it gives a great view of life during the Depression, yet it has a happy ending.” Keep up on all the entertainment stories by going to facebook.com/FolsomLakeEntertainer and clicking “like.” Submit events to the Telegraph by e-mail to telegraphevents@goldcountrymedia.com. * * * KNOW AND GO What: “The Boxcar Children” Who: T.H.E. Actors Workshop and Integral Theatre Company When: 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays April 27-May 20. No performance on Friday, May 18 Where: 800 Reading St., Folsom Cost: $15 general, $12 seniors, students, SARTA and military, $7 children 12 and under Info: Actorsworkshop.net