Abernethy Performing Arts to present 'Goblin Market'
For about 20 years, the idea of turning Christina Rossetti's poem "The Goblin Market" into a full-fledged ballet has been simmering in Keith Walls' mind.
"I fell in love [with the poem] in college; it is very theatrical," he said.
Last year, Walls finally met the people who could help him realize his dream, and "The Goblin Market" plays June 22 and 23 at West Linn High School.
Walls is the director of Abernethy Performing Arts, which he opened in 2007 in Oregon City. Over the years, APA has staged and produced over 17 ballets, three musicals and two traveling troupes, among other accomplishments. Walls has an extensive background in ballet and musical theater.
The ballet is based mainly on the Rossetti poem of the same name that revolves around a "wonderful love story of two sisters who have been left by themselves," Walls said. The two, Lizzie and Laura, go to a fair where goblins offer very tempting fruit to young maidens.
The fruit looks delicious but is enchanted, and when Laura succumbs to temptation and eats the fruit, Lizzie must find a cure to save her life.
To make the ballet longer and give more of his dancers roles, Walls added some plot elements from "An Apple Gathering," another Rossetti poem. He also added a character named the White Witch, who lives in an enchanted forest populated by magical creatures.
The witch will help those in need, but only if they are "pure of heart and have good intentions," Walls said.
Choreographing the ballet and incorporating original music has been a labor of love for a number of people.
Several years ago, Walls met musician and OCHS graduate Jeffrey Rondeau, and the two collaborated last year on a successful ballet called "Constellations."
"Then I asked him if he was up for a bigger task — a full-length score — and he said yes," Walls noted. Next, he needed to find someone who would write six original songs for the piece, and Holly Harmon, the mother of one of his dancers, said she was interested.
Then things happened.
Rondeau joined the Army Reserves and passed off the score to a friend in Israel. Then Harmon's daughter sustained an injury and she had to stop working on the songs. Harmon had already written four songs and Rondeau's wife, Brooke, jumped in to write the last two.
"She wrote the two songs, but said she needed help, so we went back to Holly, whose daughter was recovering, and she arranged the last two songs," Walls said.
"We have experienced hurdles that tested our faith, but we kept moving forward — that is the theme, the heart, of this show," Walls said.
Five of the songs are sung live on stage, and the sixth one, "Come Buy," features recorded music and singing, as the goblins are wearing masks onstage that muffle their voices.
Walls and mask-maker Matthew Hoskins have worked together before on APA's productions of "Peter and the Wolf" and "Carnival of the Animals."
"His masks are phenomenal, and they really bring the goblins to life," Walls said.
But Walls wanted the goblins to wear "organic" hats, in addition to the masks, so that the characters would look like they had arisen from the surrounding foliage. He then discovered felting, taught himself the technique by watching YouTube videos and ended up making a number of hats for the characters.
And then, in his (non-existent) spare time, Walls felted a "big, organic cape for the White Witch, with a branchy collar."
Costuming the show was no easy task: there are 70 in the cast; 30 are under the age of 7 and the other 40 range in age from 7 to adults. Two of his adult dancers, Peace Petitmermet, 20, and Christine Wright, 24, play Laura and Lizzie, respectively.
All of the dance styles that are taught at APA are represented in the show, Walls said, including hip hop, contemporary and jazz.
This year, Walls took nearly half the cast to Springwater Environmental Sciences School and Spring Mountain Elementary Schools for a mini-performance of "The Goblin Market." Because he was worried that young children might be scared of the goblins, he introduced the youngsters playing those roles and pointed out that they would be wearing masks during the performance.
"Nobody was scared," Walls said, adding that he wants families to bring even the youngest children to a performance.
Cast members also attended the Teddy Bear Parade in Oregon City last month, where the unicorn characters were a big hit.
Audiences will love the basic story and will find the magical elements intriguing, Walls said.
He added that "The Goblin Market" has a "universal theme. You may stumble and fall, but you can carry on and move forward."
Meet the goblins!
What: Abernethy Performing Arts presents "The Goblin Market," a ballet with original music
When: 7 p.m. on June 22
and 3 p.m. on June 23
Where: West Linn High School, 5464 West A St.
Tickets: Tickets range from $15 to $25 and may be purchased by visiting apadancetheater.com
Contact: For more information, visit the website or call
Classes: To find out more about dance classes beginning this summer, visit the website.