By Sarah Schrock

The Merc Playhouse’s run of The Wind in the Willows brought nearly 30 kids to the stage as the first children’s performance in honor of Tommy Zbyszewski. Tom performed in numerous acts at The Merc before his life was taken while fighting the Twisp River Fire last summer. I remember Tom in The Hobbit, and it was that performance which impressed upon me what a remarkable youth he was. I remember thinking, “Wow, what a cool kid. So vibrant, so likable.”

As the years unfolded, I watched him grow on stage in more roles as his voice deepened and presence grew. I saw him don a lifeguard buoy at the pool, a cap and gown, and finally the requisite yellow and green of the wildland firefighters. Though I didn’t know Tom well, he was a remarkable young person, a visible leader in the community and a role model whom I hope my boys could emulate. It’s a wonderful legacy that The Merc has dedicated its children’s theater program in his honor.

If you missed The Wind in the Willows, then you missed out on your heart being stolen by Ilo Curtis’ portrayal of Toad. The incredulous car thief whose compulsion to steal away in automobiles was jubilantly played by Ilo, who equally stole away your heart through his endearing humor and innocent zeal for adventure as he wound up in jail for crashing a stolen vehicle.

The story follows Rat, played by Addison Stratman, and sweet-natured Mole, played by Hazel Culpsmith, who becoame fast friends as they set out to save Toad from his incarceration. Both these young actresses mastered long lines and their hours of rehearsal were evident by their flawless delivery.

As Mole’s bravery grows in the aboveground world, she must face intimidation by a group of woodland bullies, notably the weasels and ferrets. This pack of young gangsters led by Abel Curtis and Yana Camm orchestrate a woodland mutiny by ousting Badger (Naji Baldwin-Shanin) and taking over Toad Hall. Naji commanded the stage with his stately composure and booming voice far beyond his age. I expect more strong performances from this young man whose ease and talent on stage echoed that of Tommy Z.

The remainder of the production follows Toad’s escape from jail and his friends’ revolt against the bullies to reclaim Toad Hall. The stage was abuzz with a number of adorably cute river and woodland animals, like Little Portly (Sykora Norwick) and other small mammals who all played their parts to perfection, finding their way into the hearts of the audience. If you have children in your life, be it grandkids, nieces or nephews, make a point to bringing them to Twisp for The Merc’s next children’s program because it has truly become an outstanding community theater tradition.

As the weather warms up, you are probably wondering what is happening with the Wagner Memorial Pool renovation and opening. The pool is scheduled to open June 17, only a week later than previously hoped.

Friends of the Pool still needs to fill a $15,000 gap to pay for it all. Also, some volunteer manpower is needed immediately. Demolition and hauling of the current liner needs to be happen this week and can be done with willing volunteers. Come to a work party on Friday (May 13) at 8 a.m. to help. Bring work clothes, gloves and safety goggles. If you have a small sledge hammer, flat-tipped shovel, or heavy-duty wheelbarrow to lend, please bring that along too.

If you are available on Thursday evening before the work party you can be accommodated, call Patty Yates at 997-2910 or email me at to help out Thursday or Friday.  Finally, it’s time to renew or purchase your fish for the wall on the pool — consider an additional whale-sized donation this year to help meet the $15,000 gap.


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