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Black Swan production takes you on a journey of hope, seasonal awakening

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Josie Lattin plays the young, unloved Mary Lennox in Black Swan's production of 'The Secret Garden.' Performances are this weekend at Sam Barlow High's Little Theatre in Gresham.
For a lot of folks, springtime means new beginnings, budding hope for the future.

Elizabeth Laurent is one of those people.

Laurent, along with Mallory Spanjer, is co-directing the upcoming production of "The Secret Garden" by the Black Swan Youth Theatre company.

"It's a story essentially about seasons both in the natural world and with humans," Laurent says. "It has a lot to do with how much nature can change a person."

Performances begin at 7 p.m. this Thursday, March 16, and run through Saturday, March 18, with an additional performance at 2 p.m. on Saturday. Black Swan is presenting the show at Sam Barlow High School's intimate Little Theatre, 5105 S.E. 302nd Ave., Gresham.

Because of the limited seating in the space, Laurent recommends buying tickets in advance; the Thursday night show is already sold out. They cost $7 for students, $8 for adults, and you can purchase them at blackswanyouththeatre.seatyourself.biz.

Though "The Secret Garden" is usually performed as a musical, Laurent and her company opted to pursue it as a "straight play." Laurent adapted Black Swan's version herself from the 1911 children's book by Frances Hodgson.

The play follows young Mary Lennox, an unloved, spoiled child from a wealthy family, as she comes of age around the turn of the century in Yorkshire, England.

Mary's story begins in the winter, during which she and her cousin Colin are in a corresponding "winter mode." Mary wiles away her days as a chilly, rude and angry child, until she meets another child in the village named Dickon and begins searching for a forgotten garden on the grounds of her aunt and uncle's estate.

Mary finds the garden and begins to explore it, and as the season blooms into spring and "the garden comes alive, so does Mary," Laurent says.

The production has gone through some hurdles to fill roles, but Laurent was pleasantly surprised at the acting of the younger cohort, especially as the show revolves around characters in budding adolescence.

"The play (is focused) mostly on the three children for a lot of a lines, and they have done a really good job," Laurent says.

Josie Lattin, 11, stars as the protagonist Mary.

Laurent says it's no coincidence that her company chose a show that encapsulates the life-bringing transformation of spring from winter for its March production. She thinks audience members will come away with a sense of hope, which could help guide them through these last few weeks of rainy and chilly weather.

"You can really only do a Secret Garden this time of the year," Laurent says. "It's a really beautiful story that talks a lot about how people can change and the hope of spring."

For more information about the Black Swan production, call 503-753-4649 or visit blackswanyouththeatre.com.

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