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Fairy tale has a wry twist for youngsters

Teachers at Circle C Ranch Academy hope this one's just right as they reinvent Goldilocks to help kids think creatively.

By JAY CRIDLIN
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 18, 2002


Somewhere, Shrek must be smiling. His fractured fairy tale take on life is catching on.

Students at Circle C Ranch Academy, an after-school day care center on Interbay Boulevard, staged a production last week of Mom A. Bear, Pop A. Bear and Babe E. Bear vs. Gold E. Locks, a twisted version of the classic story. In this one, the bears sue Goldilocks for trespassing and damages.

Teacher Shayla Bell decided that the children needed a challenge to hold their interest.

"It helps them be more creative and makes them think on a whole different level," Bell said. "A lot of them, when they heard it, were like, 'Wow, they can do that?' "

The play also gave the children a primer in courtroom lingo and the American justice system. Consider this sample dialogue:

* * *

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Goldilocks, as I recall your testimony, you ate the porridge because it smelled so good and you were hungry. You had not knocked the door down, but walked in the open door thinking the people would not care. The chair was broken when you sat down to wait for the maker of the porridge to tell her how good the porridge was, and you accidentally fell asleep on the bed.

GOLDILOCKS: That's right.

DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You didn't mean anybody any harm, did you, Goldilocks?

GOLDILOCKS: Of course not. It looked like such a friendly house.

* * *

Sonya Britt, Circle C's after-school director, said the play has helped students pick up terms like "testimony" and "Exhibit A."

"They don't even realize they're learning, because they're having a good time," Britt said. "Then in three weeks, one of them will say something out of the blue that pertains to what we did here today."

Talk about being tried in the court of public opinion: After the closing arguments, the audience was called in for jury duty. By an almost 2-1 ratio of raised hands, Goldilocks came out the winner.

Jillian Hartman, 10, who played the flaxen-haired intruder, seemed pleased by vindication.

The bears, on the other hand, were a little less enthused.

"She broke. Into. Their house," enunciated Keri Perusse, 10, who played the bears' lawyer. "We were supposed to win!"

It was all in good fun, though. When the play was over, the players headed off to the playground, arm in arm.

"I think that these kids have worked really hard and put a lot of thinking and hard work into it, and I think that they deserve any award that they would get," said Kelly Stewart, 8, who played Goldilocks' mother. "I'm not speaking of an Oscar award, but they could at least get applause."

Already, the students are excited about the next play. Perusse's little fingers are crossed for a revival of Alice in Wonderland or Little Red Riding Hood.

And on the other end of the spectrum, 10-year-old Justin Smith, who played the judge, said he's thinking about becoming a lawyer or judge in real life.

Britt said she's happy that the students are learning to speak in public without stage fright.

"You could kind of see in the beginning they were like, 'Ummmmm . . .' Toward the end, they started talking more and using their hands more," she said.

"That's what makes it worth it. That's what this kind of program is about."

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