With his trademark sword fights and professional approach to community theater, Nicholasville playwright/producer  L. Henry Dowell returns his production of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs of the Old Republic" to the stage this weekend.

Shows will be performed at the North Laurel High School auditorium at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 16 and Saturday, June 17.

Originally performed during the World Chicken Festival while Dowell operated Gusto Theatre on Main Street, this production combines the classic fairy tale of Snow White and the seven dwarfs with a "Star Wars" theme and other classic characters in a musical fest.

The cast includes children ages 8 to 18 who participated in a 10-day camp held at The Event Place. While most of the actors have returned from previous Gusto productions or last year's summer acting camp, six of this year's cast are making their debut performances with Dowell's production.

McKenzie Bargo took the lead role of Snow White in her first-ever acting performance and makes the trek from Jackson County each day to be  a part of this year's production. For her, the opportunity to try acting was a new venture.

"I haven't really found a place where I fit in," she said. "I heard about the Gusto acting camp and told my parents I wanted to do it. It's very fun; it's like one big happy family here."

Gabe Steeley is another newcomer who launched his acting interests in the London Elementary School production of "The Wizard of Oz" this past year. After playing Tin Man in the school production, Steeley wanted to further his interests.

"I really enjoyed the school production," he said. "I'd heard about Gusto Theatre and it has a good reputation so I wanted to do the summer camp."

Avery Ball relishes her experience with the camp, stating acting "let's me be free to be myself." She and fellow newcomer Kenlee Sauer play two of the dwarfs in the play - another twist to the plot as the audience chooses names for the dwarfs and the actors must portray those characters by the names chosen.

"The audience is given a list of names and they pick the ones for each dwarf," Dowell explained. "The actors have standard lines but they have to act according to the names given to them, like Elvis and other characters."

Dowell's productions have been performed across the United States, with this "Snow White" version being the most popular of his plays. Thus far, it has been produced for shows in California, Washington, Florida, Maine, and West Virginia. It has also been produced in four foreign countries - the Czech Republic, Germany, Phillipines, and Tazmania.

But the weekend showing also offers another special reunion of former Gusto Theatre actors. Following the "Snow White" production is a performance of "The Odd Princess," which Dowell describes as an odd couple of princesses such as Cinderella, the Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Belle, Snow White and Rapunzel. Mixed in with a variety of Prince Charmings, the show offers a different view into the lives of the neat princess versus the messy princess - with the Big Bad Wolf also making an appearance.

Shows begin promptly at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12.

The Gusto Theatre Summer Camp II will begin on Monday, June 19 and will run through June 30, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Those participating in summer camp will be featured in a stage production set for Friday, June 30 and Saturday, July 1 at the North Laurel High School auditorium. For more information about Gusto Theatre, its summer camp, or performances, contact Henry Dowell at (859) 553-2059.

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