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Families juggle time, children on stage

With one English son and two Siamese princess daughters, Courtney Hicks has her hands full. But she’s also juggling her new life as a teacher, which makes daily life in the Hicks’ house a little chaotic.

Hicks plays Anna Leonowens in Natchez Little Theatre’s production of “The King and I,” and all three of her children will be on stage beside her.

John Ashton Hicks, who will be a sixth grader in the fall, will play Anna’s son, Louis, who travels with his mother to Siam to serve as a tutor to the king’s many children and wives.

“It has been wonderful having them all here,” Courtney said. “It’s been stressful trying to get everything together and making sure everyone is ready, but it has been wonderful.”

Her daughters, Erin, who is headed to 10th grade; and Emily, who will soon be in fifth grade, are portraying the daughters of the king.

This is Emily’s first play, but she said she has really enjoyed the process of putting the production together.

“It has been busy,” Emily said as she waited for her mother to apply her makeup for dress rehearsal. “We’ve had fun with it though

“I think I’ll probably do some more plays.”

In the past few weeks, John Ashton said it seems a bit like the play has taken over the family’s life, but all the hard work is paying off on stage, he said.

“We listen to the CD everywhere we go,” he said. “I know every one of the songs.”

But changing from Louis back to John Ashton is as easy as a quick costume change.

“John Ashton is all Ole Miss all of the time,” he said sporting an Ole Miss T-shirt, hat and shorts. “Louis is like Maypole (from the Historic Natchez Pageant.)”

He has become such a master of the play that he often will cue lines for his mother.

“There is one part that I always seem to stumble on, but he knows it and will give me my line,” Courtney said. “He’s knows it better than me, I think.”

That is despite his fear in the beginning that he wouldn’t even be able to learn his own lines.

“I was scared at first that I wouldn’t get it at all,” he said. “But I know it now, and it is fun.”

He said while he enjoys being on stage, he isn’t expecting to be involved in any more productions, at least for a while.

“I’m busy,” he said. “I play football and soccer and baseball and had to miss some practices for this play.

“I’m sure I’ll do more, but just not right away.”

Emily and Erin are looking forward to participating in the summer youth production of “Beauty and the Beast.”

“I don’t know when we will do another one with all four of us,” Courtney said. “It’s tough coordinating schedules and making sure everyone has everything they need for everything they are doing.”

When the musical opens tonight with a benefit performance, Courtney Hicks won’t be the only mother with one eye on stage and the other on her children.

Rhoshawnda Baker, a NLT veteran, will also be keeping a careful eye on her two daughters, Logan and Josie, who will be making their Natchez Little Theatre debuts.

“I wanted to get them involved in this for the experience and so they could come along with me,” Rhoshawnda said. “It has been more work than I thought, but they have learned a lot about the amount of work that goes into a production.”

Logan Baker, who will be a fifth grader in the fall, said it hasn’t been as too hard for her.

“It may be a little harder than I thought it would be, but it is not too bad,” she said. “I think it has been fun.”

That may partly be because both Logan and Josie have been back stage, in the audience and in the dressing room when their mother was preparing for other roles.

Now getting to be in the hair and makeup areas and the dressing room is even more fun, because the girls can put on the costumes and makeup.

“It is like playing dress up,” Rhoshawnda said. “That is what they do at home, and they do it here. They love that.”

Rhoshawnda, who is one of the royal wives, said she was worried at first that her daughters might struggle to learn their lines and parts, but it has been exactly the opposite.

“Logan is mouthing my lines to me,” Rhoshawnda said.

Tickets are $10 for tonight’s benefit performance. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets for those days are $15.

Tickets can be reserved by calling 601-442-2233 or 1-877-440-2233.

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