Story last updated at 3/18/2009 - 8:55 pm
JUNEAU - Elias Antaya is wearing a World War II bomber jacket and aviator cap and standing very, very still. His friend Helen taps him on the shoulder and he suddenly comes to life.
"Did you bring any chocolate?" he asks.
Elias, 11, is rehearsing for his role as a living statue of Roald Dahl, the author of dozens of beloved books, including "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Elias and four other students will be living statues at the Downtown Public Library's 20th anniversary celebration on Saturday, March 21. Two of the students, Max Blust and Helen Thurston, came over to Elias' house to rehearse last Saturday morning after swim team practice.
"Acting's fun," Elias said. "You can always be a different person."
He's been a statue before - earlier this year he played Leonardo da Vinci at school. His friends have also been on stage before - Max said he has lots of Folk Fest experience, and Helen has been in school plays.
But being a statue is a little harder than other kinds of acting, Elias said. You have to stand perfectly still and be ready to launch into a two-minute monologue whenever anyone touches you. And there's nobody to cue you by saying the line before.
Diane Antaya, Elias' mother, said that her son and his friends have been going to the library almost their whole lives, since they first started attending Toddler Time. Now, they are happy to volunteer to help out at the library celebration, even though they're all "really busy with homework and extra-curricular activities."
"They all have greatly benefited from the library," Antaya said. "The librarians give so much to the kids in this town."
Elias and Helen also volunteer at the library during the summer, helping younger kids with their projects and reading time, as well as sorting and stacking books.
The other student statues are Manon Paul and Chantel Eckland, both sixth graders at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. Manon will portray Barbara Parks, author of the Junie B. Jones series, and Chantel will be Kate DiCamillo, author of "The Tale of Despereaux" and other books.
Helen, 10, chose to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, because she likes her books, but also for a more practical consideration.
"I was looking at books I had read and she was the one person who I wouldn't have to die my hair white and pull it back," she said.
Max Blust, 11, has chosen to depict a book's character instead of its author. He is dressing up as Brian, the protagonist in Gary Paulson's "Hatchet."
"He's written four books about Brian," Max said. "I just love his books. I just really like survival stories. I'm being Brian when he's just crashed. I'm going to have a torn-up windbreaker (and) a hatchet."
Given a choice, Max prefers to write rather than read.
"I just write little things that come to my mind, little shorts," he said.
These statues lead busy lives. Elias and Max are in a folk band, the Alaskan Travelers, and Helen plays the piano and the violin. All three are in swim club. But being a statue is a lot of fun, they said.
"Reading and friends are what I live for - and Swiss chocolate," Elias said. Just like Roald Dahl.
There's only one more thing Elias needs to portray Dahl, who was born in Cardiff, Wales.
"I just need to gain a (Welsh) accent," he said.
The student statues will be in character at the celebration of the Downtown Public Library's "twenty years on the waterfront" at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 21. Speakers include Donna Pierce, past library director; Paul Voelckers, library architect; Mayor Bruce Botelho; and Linda Thibodeau, state library director. Live music will be performed by Aurora Strings and Tom Locher, and chocolate and pastries will be served.