Local Boy Brings Realism to BoarsHead Role
John Schneider, Lansing State Journal, May 13, 2005
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EAST LANSING -
Who could be better in the role of a boy with Down syndrome than
a boy with Down syndrome?
Well, it depends on how you look at it.
As a stroke of realism, it's a perfect match. But, in terms of
the nuts-and-bolts realities of staging live theater, with its
demands and deadlines, the casting poses certain challenges.
Take the case of Kierin Kerbawy, a 13-year-old seventh-grader at
East Lansing's MacDonald Middle School. Beginning Wednesday,
Kierin will reprise his roll as Georgie in BoarsHead Theatre's
production of "Over the Tavern."
BoarsHead first presented the play, written by Tom Dudzick, in
the fall, and brought it back by popular demand.
Speaking of tough demands, Kierin is required, in his role, to
repeatedly use a certain expletive - a word he wouldn't dream of
using in his day-to-day life.
"He told me, 'I can't say that word,' " said Kierin's father,
Colin Kerbawy. He got the job, early in rehearsals, of trying to
make his son understand subtle matters of context.
Geoffrey Sherman, BoarsHead's artistic director, recalled
Kierin's first encounters with the locker-room language.
"The word was so alien to him that he had trouble just forming
it," Sherman said.
And that, Sherman acknowledged, wasn't the only problem. In the
first weeks of rehearsals, Kierin's lagging reaction time almost
forced Sherman and director Jane Page to scrap the experiment
and hire a run-of-the-mill child actor for the part.
But Colin Kerbawy convinced the BoarsHead folks that his son
could do it, and ultimately, through hard work and persistence,
Of course it didn't hurt that Sherman was in Kierin's corner.
It so happens that Sherman worked with children with Down
syndrome in his native England, and is familiar with the
consistently underestimated kids.
Even so, when he staged "Over the Tavern" at a theater in a
different American city, he took the conventional route of
casting a standard child actor in the role.
"I always regretted that," Sherman said. "This time around, I
decided to atone for my sins. I said, 'Let's try.' "
As far as Sherman knew, Kierin is the first child with Down
syndrome ever to be cast as Georgie.
Kierin is not without experience on stage. He was in the
Fairview Elementary School production of "Little Peep" and in
the All-of-Us Express Children's Theatre's "The Pied Piper of
Asked about his experience with the professionals at BoarsHead,
Kierin said, "It's awesome."
And, regarding that word Kierin bandies about on stage ... I
asked him, jokingly, if it ever slipped out at school.
"No...well, once," he said.
"Over the Tavern" tells the story of a 1950s traditional
Polish-Catholic family and the son who challenges the
Sherman said demand for tickets exceeded availability during the
show's September run, which is why it's back this spring.
"Over the Tavern" will appear at BoarsHead, at 425 S. Grand Ave.
in Lansing through May 29. For ticket information, call
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