When Willy Wonka was lifted from the pages of the popular children's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," he emerged as the title character on a theatrical stage and in movies.

On Saturday at Harvey Auditorium, a large cast made up of both adults and children will present Bakersfield Music Theatre's version of "Willy Wonka."

And director and choreographer Shay Brandon Burke said the BMT production will be different from other productions, particularly in the area of costuming.

"Kathi Lowri designed and made the costumes," Burke said. "We didn't model (the show) after the movies or other productions but tried to create our own designs based on the actors playing the roles."

I asked Burke if Willy Wonka (Justin Thompson) would appear on stilts or as a tall stick figure standing on an actor's shoulders. But the director was keeping mum about how the eccentric owner of the candy factory would look.

"Our Willy Wonka is nothing like Johnny Depp or Gene Wilder," he said. "I can't say too much since the first sight of him in the second act is a theatrical surprise."

He was willing to talk about the Oompa Loompas, however. These delightfully named round-bodied, small-statured workers from a place called Loompaland are played by children.

"We have 43 students from OLPH (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) as the Oompa Loompa chorus and 14 additional children as featured Oompa Loompas," Burke said. "It's quite impressive when all 57 came crawling and dancing across the stage."

Another scene he thinks the audience will enjoy is the sight of Grandpa Joe (Randy Jelmini) and Charlie (Ethan Simpson) floating above the stage after drinking a concoction called Fizzy Lifting Drink.

This is the only public performance of "Willy Wonka," though there will be a total of three performances for schoolchildren. Burke explained it was designed as a "Kids Go to Theatre" program. The first such show was on Wednesday, the second is today, and the final one is on Tuesday.

BMT-Stars artistic director Bruce Saathoff said children sign up through their schools if they want to see the show.

"To my knowledge the students pay nothing to attend," he said. "The (school) district pays or corporate sponsors or some combination of the two."

Puppet theater

Like many folk tales, "The Fisherman's Wife" is a story with a moral -- namely, it doesn't pay to be greedy. Or as it might be stated in contemporary times, be careful what you wish for.

In this case, it's about a woman who asks an enchanted fish for several material things, each one more elegant the last, and then begins to ask to be elevated to a higher position in life.

It begins when a poor fisherman lands a large fish that asks the man not to let him die because he, the fish, is actually a prince who can grant wishes. The fisherman goes home to his shabby cottage and tells his wife.

At first she asks for a better house. When this wish is granted she continues to ask for bigger and better things.

Ultimately, she ends up back where she started.

Omnipresent Puppet Theatre will present two performances of the tale using its specially designed oversized puppets at Gaslight Melodrama on Saturday. The shows are suitable for preschool age and older.

Playwright classes

A series of nine bi-weekly classes for amateur playwrights started on Jan. 25 and continues through April 25 at the Pine Mountain Club in the Lebec-Frazier Park area.

It's still possible to sign up, said Barbara Ladin, publicist for the group. One class has already been held but spaces are available and new attendees can catch up at the meeting on Saturday.

Judith Cassis, author of "When Life Knocks You Down -- Get Up!" is the leader of the workshops.

The author's instruction will be focused on helping writers understand the dynamics of the 10-minute play.

It's also hoped participants will consider entering their completed script in a contest sponsored by the Center of the World Festival, an organization based at Pine Mountain.

"Our actor volunteers will be on hand to read the plays aloud, giving the writer the kind of real- world feedback that really helps the creative process," Ladin said. "Our sincerest desire is that the writer will not only find this class fun and informative, but that they will take their creation and enter it for consideration into this year's competition."

For submission guidelines, go to cowfest.org.

The workshops are funded by a $1,500 grant from the Arts Council of Kern.

McCracken book signing

In a pre-Valentine's Day event local contemporary artist Aliza McCracken will autograph her latest book, "A Life of Love" on Saturday at Russo's Books.

Like her previous books, the current one features inspirational thoughts along with her colorful drawings. An exhibit of her artwork will also be featured.

McCracken said a portion of the sales from her books, artwork and boxed greeting cards will benefit local educational programs.

Jen Bowles exhibits in NYC

An exhibition that opens today at Agora Gallery in New York will feature the artwork of Jen Bowles, who majored in art at Cal State Bakersfield and was a featured artist in The Californian's Eye Gallery art series in 2007.

Bowles, now employed as a car rental agent at Jim Burke Ford -- but still making art whenever she can -- said the gallery contacted her last year after coming across her work while searching the Internet.

"They asked me to submit my work to the gallery for a curatorial review and possible show," she said.

"After submitting several paintings, I was accepted."

In a press release describing her work, the gallery said: "Bowles drops and threads her paint like (Jackson) Pollock, but her end product is something completely different: unified, intimately cropped, and thoughtful rather than active."

Bowles has three pieces in the exhibit but won't be at this evening's party to greet visitors.

"I regret that I won't be able to attend the opening in New York City," she said, "but I will be celebrating from afar."

The show will be up at Agora Gallery, which is in the Chelsea district of Manhattan, through Feb. 27.

After-school theater

Tonicism, a theater workshop for children, will begin after-school classes next week, which will run every Tuesday and Thursday through April 18 (with the exclusion of spring break week, March 25-29). Cost is $275, and the program is looking for benefactors to supply scholarships.

The students will take on the musical "Disney's Little Mermaid Jr."

The Tonicism website said the program is geared to children ages 5 to 18 and suitable for both first-timers and veterans.

The workshop meets from 3:45 to 5:45 p.m. beginning Tuesday. Performances are May 3, 4 and 5. For more, go to tonicism.com or call 861-1314.