Dennis Lamberson sifted through his own childhood experiences to create the central characters in his new play, "The Adventures of Zak -- The Amazing X-Ray Boy."
He also drew inspiration for Zak, an adventurous 6-year-old boy, by observing nephews and cousins at that age, the Central Lakes College theater director said in an interview this week.
The children's play -- the script and characters are geared for elementary school kids -- opens for public consumption Oct. 27-28 following a week of twice-a-day performances for visiting classes from the area's schools.
An estimated 3,000 children are expected for the performances in John Chalberg Theatre on the Brainerd campus, the director said.
Zak, played by Shane Lueck, was captured by the Momdaddies in this scene from "The Adventures of Zak -- The Amazing X-Ray Boy."
Zak's "trusty sidekicks" in the play are Moo the Bear and Graham Cracker Rabbit, a couple of stuffed animals that come to life in the boy's presence.
"Zak is a combination of lots of kids I've known over the years, and some of the things that happen in the script actually happened in real life," Lamberson said. "As a kid, I had a bear called Moo and stuffed rabbit whose ear I chewed off."
In the play, the stuffed animals routinely get Zak in trouble with his parents, who are unaware of the lively events occurring in the child's bedroom, the principle set for the 50-minute production.
As usual, Lamberson has designed a vivid and colorful collection of costumes for Zak -- played by Brainerd fourth-grader Shane Lueck -- as well as for Moo and Graham Cracker -- played by Thomas Vasecka of Motley and Anna Midthun of Brainerd.
T-Rex paid a surprise visit at Zak's birthday party in this scene from "The Adventures of Zak -- The Amazing X-Ray Boy." The scene included Moo Bear (left), played by Thomas Vasecka; Graham Cracker Rabbit, played by Anna Midthun; Birthday Clown, played by Mike Francis; Zak, played by Shane Lueck; and T-Rex, played by Shane Keran, Katrina Hawley and Aaron Kramer.
Other characters in the cast, including the Spinach Monster, Tommy the T-Rex and the Troll, are played by Shane Keran and Mike Francis, both of Baxter, Aaron Kramer and Jennell Welliver, both of Brainerd, and Katrina Hawley of Emily.
The school bully named Billy Bob Masher, whose secret weakness is revealed by Zak's X-ray capabilities, provides the dramatic tension in the play. But Lamberson declined to discuss the source of Zak's powers, suggesting the audience will have to wait until the public performance to find out the answer.
Lamberson, a longtime director in CLC's Theatre Department, has written several other plays performed on the college's stages, including several Geritol Frolics productions.
"The Adventures of Zak" marks the 16th consecutive year that CLC has offered a children's production, Lamberson said.
Last year's play was presented to thousands of students gathered in their own school buildings, but technical requirements of "Zak" prevented taking the show on the road, Lamberson said.
These include 120 sound cues, 80 lighting cues and "lots of special effects such as pyrotechnics and smoke and flashing lights," the director said.
The public performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 27 and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Oct. 28, all in the Chalberg Theatre. Tickets are $5 and are available by calling 855-8199 or 800-933-0346, extension 8199.
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