TSF actress tries new role crafting children's show

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Texas Shakespeare Festival actress Grace Abele can do it all. She’s trained in singing, improvisation and stage combat. She’s performed in theatrical productions across the country and the world. Now, in her third season at TSF, she’s trying something new: using the festival stage to bring life to a script of her own.

Abele is directing the children’s show “The Lovely Stepsister,” premiering Wednesday, July 18. This play marks the completion of a project which changed significantly over the years.

“I actually started it years ago and I was writing it as a children’s book,” Abele said. “But then I realized I knew nothing about the publishing industry or how to get an illustrator or anything so I decided to adapt it into a play. I have more contacts in the business and I know much more about how to turn it into a stage play.”

After deciding to turn her book project into a new play, Abele set her sights on getting the play produced at TSF.

“I talked to Meaghan [Simpson] about submitting it to do it here and we went through revisions and sometime in the winter they were like ‘Yeah! Let’s do it! And why don’t you direct it?’” she said.

The TSF website describes the play as a fun-for-all-ages “original fairytale mash-up” in which one of Cinderella’s ugly stepsisters embarks on a journey filled with wacky characters and humorous situations.

While “The Lovely Stepsister” will be Abele’s directorial debut at TSF, she is no stranger to the feeling of writing a play intended to delight a live audience.

“I’ve done it before. I worked in Korea creating English language musicals. So I have seen before what it’s like writing something and then directing it and then having kids react to it. It’s a cool feeling.”

Although this is her first time directing a show at TSF, Abele says she is not feeling any stage fright.

“I probably should be a little nervous, but I’m too excited to be nervous,” she said.

In addition to directing her own show at TSF, Abele is performing roles in multiple plays.

“I’m in ‘Tartuffe’ and ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’,” she said. “Usually acting company members are in three shows but because I’m also directing they decided to just put me in two. Otherwise, that would have been a little too much.”

Though she is performing in two major roles this season, Abele says she is most looking forward to directing the play she wrote.

“I think I’m looking forward most to ‘The Lovely Stepsister’ because it’s a new challenge. It’s a little uncharted territory. I’ve been working with the acting interns who are the cast for ‘Lovely Stepsister’ so I’ve seen them do little things and it makes me think ‘Oh, he could do that’ or ‘She could use that.’ Usually, directors here simply get their cast from day one and they have to do it. But I’m getting to know them and see what they’re capable of before we even start rehearsing, which is neat,” she said.

The first performance of “The Lovely Stepsister” will be on July 18 at 10 a.m. The rest of the performances will each be held at 10 a.m. on July 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit TexasShakespeare.com or call the TSF Box Office at 903-983-8601 between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday.

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