Local performers will embark on a fairy tale journey of princes, princesses and evil witches at 7 p.m. today through Saturday as Sleepy Hollow Theatre presents the Broadway musical "Into the Woods," written by Stephen Sondheim.

Known for its quality outdoor productions in which area students work under the direction of theater professionals, Sleepy Hollow is following a new direction in an indoor venue at Sixteen03 Main Events, 1603 E. Main Ave., Bismarck. 

For the first time in its nearly 30-year existence, the theater is putting on an all-adult production.

"It started with a fundraiser for scholarships," said director Job Christenson. "How can we encompass our mission to include everyone in the community? And so an adult production came to mind."

The show was designed to accommodate working adults, who often do not have a chance to participate in community theater. Christenson carved out evening rehearsals from about 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., giving participants time to get off work.

A number of local actors, including Ashley Schrenk, a Mandan High School alumni and Flasher Public School music teacher, were enticed by the show's structure and content to participate.

"This is probably one of my favorite musical theater pieces," Schrenk, 25, said. "I'm very fortunate that I got to do it a couple of different times.

"There were not many shows that could have made me come out of my acting hiatus, and this was one of the few," said Schrenk, who stars as Little Red Riding Hood.

Another actor, Debi Rogers, was pulled out of an acting hiatus as she has been caring for her parents. Christensen described the veteran performer as "a bit of a legend in North Dakota."

Rogers, a former music teacher, said she has been performing in theater productions for the past 40 years.  

"I needed to be in a show really bad," said Rogers, of Mandan.

"My husband once said when we were dating, 'If there is a stage, then she'll perform,'" Rogers said. "I guess it's kind of been in me my whole life."

Rogers is performing in the roles of Jack's mother and Cinderella's mother.

The event, which aims to raise funds for children's theater scholarships, will include what Christenson called a "theater in the round" performance, meaning the seating surrounds the stage and actors will move throughout the crowd while performing. 

Adam Michal, 22, of Mandan, is performing as Jack from "Jack and Beanstalk" children's fairy tale, as well as the Prince's steward.

"Within theater, I get to explore and not necessarily be someone I'm not but explore different parts of myself that I don't get to experience in my day-to-day life," Michal said. 

The cast had about three weeks and about 50 rehearsal hours to prepare for the "Into the Woods."

"Theater is a classic way to get people engaged," Christenson said. "I've always said that arts is at the center of every strong community."

Tickets are $35 with no food or drink service and $55 with appetizer sampling, dessert and specialty drink. For more information about "Into the Woods" or to purchase tickets, visit www.shst.org.

Reach Tyana Johnson at 701-250-8250 or editor@mandan-news.com.

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