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Ellsworth junior joins cast of 'White Snake'

The University Theatre at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls presents “The White Snake” Feb. 25-27 and March 3-5. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. in the Blanche Davis Theatre of the Kleinpell Fine Arts building on campus.

“The White Snake,” by Tony Award-winning Mary Zimmerman, is a lively reimagining of an ancient Chinese legend.

In the story, two learned snakes, White Snake and Green Snake who have been cloistered on a mountaintop for centuries, begin to imagine what it would be like to join the two-legged creatures below.

They transform themselves into maidens and descend the mountain to enjoy all the “music and fine food and wine” of humankind.

White Snake soon meets and falls in love with the poor but charming Xu Xian. The courtship is sweet, their subsequent marriage is blissful, and all seems well until Fa Hai, a holy man, schemes to sabotage their happiness.

The ensuing conflicts set White Snake on a journey to a faraway forest and ultimately leads to a clash that pits sea against sky.

Emily Leonard of Ellsworth is Stag Spirit in the play.

Leonard, a dual enrollment student, is currently a junior at Ellsworth High School and takes classes at the university through Wisconsin’s Youth Options Program.

‘The broader possibilities’

She said last semester she took Costume and Makeup Design for Stage and Screen and Improvisational Dance for Theatre Arts.

“Toward the end of the semester I auditioned for ‘White Snake’ and was thrilled when I found out I got in,” she said. “I had been in shows at my high school but had never gotten a speaking role, and to get a speaking role, in a college production, is a huge honor.”

She added it is a thrilling experience to be part of a college show while she is still in high school.

“It opens my eyes to the broader possibilities of theater,” Leonard said.

The rest of the cast includes UWRF students Emma P. Johnson as White Snake; Phelan Patten as Green Snake; Karsten Halverson as Xu Xian; Josh Gustafson as Fa Hai; Mady Davis as Doubt, Moon and others; Kat Rokenbrodt as Crane Spirit, Guan Yin and others; Katie Kolakowski as Master Lin and others; Jessica Strabel as Madame Lin, Sister and others; Nic Persoon as Brother-in-law and others; Francisco Grande as Boatman and others; Ben Heer as Canopus and others and Leonard as Stag Spirit.

Theatre Professor Robin Murray is directing the play with Tiffany Schwichtenberg as stage manager.

“The show is coming along beautifully,” said Leonard. “The story of White Snake itself is so charming and the way it is adapted for stage is wonderful.”

Tickets are $10 adults, $8 seniors and $5 UWRF students with ID or ages 12 and under. The Box Office, located in Kleinpell Fine Arts, is open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Feb. 22-24, Feb. 29 and March 1-2.

On performance days, the box office opens at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased in person, by phone at 715-425-3114 or online at

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

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