DANVILLE – Debbie Prentice likes being around children. She drives a school bus, so she's used to their enthusiasm.
But Prentice is working with children in a different way now, by directing the latest Red Mask Players Children's Theater production, "Wooing Wed Widing Hood."
"This is my first time solo directing," Prentice said. "I've co-directed before, and I have a great stage manager for this production, which makes my job easier."
Prentice describes the play as a somewhat fractured version of the fairy tale "Little Red Riding Hood," with a fairy godmother and an evil queen thrown in and a wolf who doesn't eat grandmother this time around.
"The kids have been great," Prentice said of her cast. "Their enthusiasm and willingness is great. They are our future adult actors in community theater."
Katie Bateman, 13, is the queen whose three sons (Wise Prince Jason, Strong Prince Justin and ordinary Loud Prince Frank) will woo Red Riding Hood and her two sisters (Big Green Riding Hood and Medium Purple Riding Hood).
"I used to be shy," Katie said to the laughter of her theatrical friends who found it hard to believe. "It helped to get out on stage and you make a ton of new friends outside your school."
"I want to be an actress when I grow up and this will improve my skills," she added.
Her St. Paul's schoolmate Emily Sermersheim, 12, shares Katie's enthusiasm for the stage and also is in her eighth Red Mask children's production.
"I really love it," she said of being in the plays. "'Wishes' was my favorite because of the lessons."
Emily said balancing rehearsals and homework hasn't been a problem.
"We just bring our homework here and do it between scenes," she explained.
Michaela McKenna, 11, also from St. Paul's, is in her first play.
"It's totally awesome," Michaela said. "I'm the evil queen and it's pretty fun to get to be the villain."
The youngster decided to audition because her friends were involved.
"I like learning how to act," she said. "It was easy to memorize the lines."
Michaela has 20 lines but got a surprise when she realized she must also learn some of the other characters' dialogue in order to know when to come in.
"I learned their lines too, so I wouldn't miss my cues," she said.
"Wooing Wed Wed Widing Hood" has performances at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday at the Kathryn Randolph Theater, 601 N. Gilbert St., Danville. Tickets are $3 per person for festival seating.
For information, call 442-5858.