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Lit meets stage in ‘Story of Esther’

Play focuses on persecution of Jews
By: Eileen Wilson Telegraph Correspondent
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When it comes to combining literature with live entertainment, One Way Productions’ shows are hailed by theater lovers as some of the best marriages between literary masterpieces and dramatists that can be found. With productions like last year’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” which garnered two Elly Awards, playwright and director Ingrid Laurentiis-Wilson knows her craft. “I founded the theater company in Los Angeles, originally, before I had children. I used to be a professional actress in New York, and I also used to teach at Cal State Northridge in the drama department,” Laurentiis-Wilson said. “I started writing plays for them (Northridge.)” The director decided to bring her expertise to Northern California when her children were young. “I really wanted a place where my kids could do theater without just portraying a tree or something like that,” Laurentiis-Wilson remembers. “I was determined that any child who could walk and talk could also act.” One Way Productions became a non-profit organization in 2008, and started doing six shows in 2010, which qualified the company to be considered for Elly Award nominations. “We won two Elly (awards) for ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ and we were thrilled,” Laurentiis-Wilson said. Always a playwright, what she feels sets her company apart from other theaters is the fact that she takes works of literature and adapts them to the stage, using original scripts. “I like to take different works and really break them down — make them so anyone can understand them,” Laurentiis-Wilson said. “I’m attracted to works that carry an educational component.” This month, the company will perform “From Orphan to Queen, the Story of Esther,” which includes an all-adult cast. The original new musical is based on “The Book of Esther,” and tells a story of exotic travel, a Persian king, and an unfavorable future for the Hebrew nation — unless a hero or heroine can be found. “This isn’t a fluffy show,” Laurentiis-Wilson said. “But it is appropriate for all ages. A 5-year-old will come away singing the show tunes — the songs will just lift your spirits. But there is enough depth that the performance will open conversations between kids and their parents, as well.” She hopes audience members will leave the show with a sense of curiosity and will dig deeper in to the subject matter. “The subject, Esther, is about the Jews being persecuted and almost wiped out. We used the Shoah Foundation, which was founded by Steven Spielberg, to study Holocaust survivors’ stories — it was wonderful for our actors to capture what the roles meant,” Laurentiis-Wilson said. “I want to do plays that count.” The theater company prides itself on their professionalism, utilizing well-crafted costumes, sets, choreography, and original scores created by composer, Lynn Cimorelli. “She takes whatever lyrics I give her and writes wonderful songs,” Laurentiis-Wilson said. While audiences will certainly appreciate the research and dedication that went in to the show, they will appreciate the beauty of both scenery and character, and the positive message even more. “Like Noah and the Ark and Joseph and his amazing dream coat, Esther is another amazing story of providence and faith,” said Pam Hammargren, the show’s publicity director. “A woman who is willing to give her life to save her people — her courage is still celebrated annually today. This is a performance that you do not want to miss.” * * * know and go What: ‘From Orphan to Queen, the Story of Esther’ When: 7:30 p.m. June 11, 15, 17, 18, 2:30 p.m. June 11, 12, 16 Where: Three Stages at Folsom Lake College, 10 College Parkway, Folsom Tickets: $10 to $14 Information: threestages.net, 1wayproductions.org