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MAHONING VALLEY Actress with local ties to attend film's opening here

By Debora Shaulis

Sunday, October 13, 2002

Tania Raymonde is as surprised as anyone else that her feature film debut will be seen first by residents of the Mahoning Valley. She says she didn't have anything to do with those arrangements, despite her local connections, but she's happy about it.
"Oh yes, oh my gosh," gushes the 14-year-old star of "Children On Their Birthdays," which is based on a short story by Truman Capote. Tania learned that Youngstown was chosen as one of three test markets from her father, Jon Katz, who heard about it from the movie's director. Tania calls the coincidence "funny" and "so improbable."
She'll be there
Tania will take a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Youngstown to attend the opening of "Children on Their Birthdays" on Friday at Cinema South in Boardman. The movie also will be shown at Austintown Plaza 10 and Boulevard Centre in Niles.
Tania is familiar with this area. Her grandparents, Dr. Bertram and Eleanor Katz, live in Liberty. Dr. Katz is a retired surgeon and was chief of surgery at the former Northside and Southside hospitals. Tania has made many summertime trips to her grandparents' home, attended Camp Fitch and has enjoyed local fairs, she said.
Jon Katz is editor of a medical magazine. Tania's mother, Anne-Marie Katz, who is from France, is a real estate agent and urban planner.
Before "Children On Their Birthdays," Tania's three years of acting experience consisted of school plays, small productions and roles on the TV shows "Malcolm in the Middle" and "Providence." She enrolled in an acting showcase class, signed with an agent and landed this movie role, she said.
Her role
Tania plays Lily Jane Bobbit, the pretty, frilly-dressing daughter of a mute woman. They arrive in an Alabama town on a sweltering summer evening in 1947 and in short time turn it upside down. Lily Jane quickly gains two would-be suitors, whose friendship is strained by their mutual interest in her.
The movie also stars Sheryl Lee ("Twin Peaks") as the widowed mother of one of Lily Jane's would-be boyfriends and Tom Arnold as a con man that the teens want to expose.
"I just was really interested and happy and grateful to be able to play a character this way," Tania said of Lily Jane. "It's a great feeling to be able to play a kid in a different situation, a different time frame."
Despite the fact that Lily Jane is "not the nicest of persons" and very demanding, boys still like her, Tania said.Asked what she learned from the filmmaking process, "It taught me to be very concentrated," she said.
Now Tania is filming a TV sitcom, "The O'Keefes," that should debut in March on The WB. Tania plays family member Lauren O'Keefe, a home-schooled kid with siblings. While they are very intelligent, they also are separated from pop culture and must learn how to act in various situations, she said.
Tania hasn't decided whether acting will be her lifelong pursuit, but "If I could have fun like this for a while, it would be great," she said.
Film's promoter
Crusader Entertainment, the film's Beverly Hills-based production company, hired Prodigal Media of Boardman to promote the film in two test markets -- Youngstown and Knoxville, Tenn.
Youngstown was tapped because of its history of strong family values, since "Children On Their Birthdays" is part of an effort to place more family-friendly movies in theaters, Prodigal Media states in press materials.
"Children On Their Birthdays" will also open Friday in Albuquerque, N.M.