It's a big commitment of time for the girls, many of whom have maintained honor roll status while working up to 25 hours a week.

Director Gale Edwards writes that "Macbeth" is a play of equivocation: "the notion of lying; contradiction; ambiguity; clever, two-faced falsehoods-doubleness."

It is Shakespeare's witches who conjure reflections of their own evil in the king and queen, provoking mayhem and madness. How appropriate, then, that in this season's Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of The Scottish Play the witches, too, are doubled, shadowed by littler versions of themselves. The little witches add an extra tot of doom to an already dire brew, one implication being that malevolence is perpetuated through the next generation.

The six young actors who portray the little witches gathered on the bricks on a recent August afternoon to talk about what it's like to perform with festival professionals in such a chilling role.

It's a big time commitment for the girls, middle school students, many of whom have maintained honor roll status while working up to 25 hours a week. But from the smiles on their faces as they talked about their gig, it seems they enjoy the challenges.

June Thomquist, Lindsey Crocker and Dominique Moore (Team Black) alternate with Rachel Kaiser, Anne Skinner and Lydia McKee (Team Red) in bringing the junior witches to life. Through 60 performances of "Macbeth," which opened Feb. 13 and runs through Nov. 1, the little sisters do the occult dirty work, they explained. Waving their daggers, it is the little witches who menace Lady Macbeth to distraction and goad her husband to his bloody deeds.

Keeping the creepiness fresh is hard, the girls said, as is making up classes missed for matinees.

But they also spoke about how much they love performing with the pros and learning the myriad aspects of theater: hitting marks, putting on witch make-up (the girls do it all themselves, but have help putting on their wigs), coping with the large, hot "apparition heads" and staying focused on stage.

Quite apart from all that, they toss off lines from the play with ease and discuss the themes of evil and corruption from an informed perspective.

If that wouldn't charm the socks off an Advanced Placement English teacher, then the sheer enthusiasm of these young actors certainly would. They are, after all, still kids. They giggled as they remembered cracking up for no reason during the "fair is foul, and foul is fair" dialogue, and shared a moment of agony remembering how one of them got her dagger caught in her costume and wound up brandishing her skirt.

June Thomquist's mother, Christina Lindquist, provided a parent's perspective on the youngsters' involvement in this demanding work.

"During winter rehearsals all six girls became close and supported each other when one was sick or when a family matter came up," she said. "OSF has been a very positive experience for all of them. Many of the adult actors have been so kind. It has been an incredible education, not only literary but on the stage."