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23 April 2008

'Mattress' is Set for Success

By Hervey Folsom
Anniston Star

Reprinted here in its entirety.

A domineering, talkative queen. A king that is mute, but pantomimes. A prince that cannot find a princess, and a wizard that helps the queen ensure that such a young woman throughout the land never qualifies.

Clearly, "Once Upon a Mattress" offered by Community Actors' Studio Theatre and opening April 24 at JSU/McClellan Theatre is not your normal history of royalty.

It's a special brand of fiction in a queendom based on The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Anderson.

"Mattress" calls for special effects in staging, so that means a special designer.

Enter Jim Robinson, a designer from Atlanta. "The look is magical, in a cartoonish sort of way," Robinson said of the set. "I'm using lots of color to bring it alive."

This production marks the fifteenth one he has created on paper for Kim Dobbs, CAST's artistic director and director of "Mattress."

The features on stage some accomplished with a black light are almost like characters themselves, depicting the musical's time and place.

But there's a challenge in delivering this product on a stage which must hold actors, a chorus, and lots of movement.

The two tall, rounded thrones will pivot, serving as columns inside the castle as well as royal chairs. The 20 mattresses on which the potential princess will sleep revolves. Hollowed out on the unit's other side is a wizard's cave.

Talking with Robinson is interesting, for he's lived in New York and appeared on the Broadway stage in "No, No, Nannette." He's moved away from performing, but as a designer, his eye for color is extremely handy, Dobbs said.

Lots of community talent is being used to put "Mattress" on its feet. Seamstresses, chaired by Pati Tiller, are fitting the medieval costumes to actors' sizes, and the madrigal singing is especially entertaining.

Susan Sullivan, who is leading the tap dancing, is a writer, too. A fantasy story she wrote, The King's Story, is set in a semi-anachronistic medieval time, and is not unlike "Mattress," Sullivan said. The story appears in the April/May issue of Alienskin Magazine and can be read online at

"Mattress" will be presented for three weekends. The last show is May 11. For ticket prices and reservations, call 820-2278.

See story at The Anniston Star's website: .

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