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Sparks 11-year-old has lead role in 'Secret Garden' at Oldfields

By Pat van den Beemt, pvdb@comcast.net

4:19 PM EST, January 18, 2012

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Characters from a classic English children's book will blossom on stage as students from Oldfields School in Glencoe perform "The Secret Garden" on Jan. 27, 28 and 29. The shows are free and open to the public.

The book, written by Frances Hodgson Burnett and published in 1911, tells the tale of Mary Lennox, a young girl who comes to live at her uncle's English estate after her parents die of cholera in India.

Liza Ayd, 11, of Sparks, has the lead role.

"This is my first play and when I found out I was Mary, I was really excited and really nervous," said Liza, a sixth-grader who came to Oldfields from Sparks Elementary School. "Mary is really bratty at first, but she starts to become sweeter and nicer."

Mary is left to the care of the her uncle's housekeeper, played by senior Parker Phelan, and a maid, played by Margie Vricella, a freshman.

Phelan, 18, lives in Lutherville and has been in every play performed at Oldfields during the five years she's been there. She plans on majoring in theater in college.

Both she and Vricella said trying to master a proper English accent has been a challenge.

As Mary explores her uncle's estate, she finds a secret garden and gets help restoring it from two gardeners, played by eighth-grader Julia Barry and Kori Brierly-Bowers, a junior. Eighth-grader Isabel Salazar Couttolenc doesn't speak, but rather squeaks and cheeps, in the role of a robin who becomes Mary's friend.

Mary also discovers her uncle's 10-year-old sickly son, Colin, who has been hidden in the house ever since his mother died. Isabeau Rea, a sophomore, plays Colin. Piper Blackburn plays the role of his father, Archibald Craven.

Blackburn is a freshman who performed in children's theaters in New Jersey before coming to Oldfields last year.

Pamela Icyeza, a freshman from Rwanda, plays Archibald Craven's cousin who wants to inherit his estate one day. She said she read the book twice before auditions were held in the fall.

The play also features Francesca McGinnis and Natilia Salido. Stage manager is Alyson Thompson, assisted by Phoenix Liu, Erin Kean and Naomi Evnochides.

"The Secret Garden" is directed by Kate Briante, Oldfields theater and music teacher who chairs its performing arts department.

The shows will be performed at the school's 182-seat David Niven Theater at 7 p.m. on Jan. 27 and 28, and at 2 p.m. on Jan. 29.

Oldfields School, a boarding and day school for girls in grades six through 12, is located at 1500 Glencoe Road, Sparks. For more information, call 410-472-4800.