Category Archives: Abby Chovan

Ashes performs in Scotland

Photo by Mary Ficker

Story by Abby Chovan

As the crowd shuffles out of Studio One still buzzing with talk of former theatre director Chris Bundy’s straight play Ashes, techs and actors have already begun to make their way back on stage. They have no time to lose when it comes to packing up the show, so all of them act quickly to move props and costumes. The need for rush is due to the fact that in just two short days from their closing show on July 27, the whole cast will leave to take their show to Scotland for two weeks.

FC’s theatre department was invited over a year ago to attend the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival as a part of the American High School Theatre Festival. Students made the commitment to attend almost right after the announcement, but rehearsals did not begin until this July. The department was consumed with the International Thespian Festival in Nebraska throughout the end of June, so the meetings and rehearsals did not officially begin until afterwards.

This process made for a quick and tight schedule for all the actors to develop their characters, which proved to be a challenge. Even without a time crunch, developing several characters for one show can be difficult. 

“This show challenged me with having to play completely contrasting characters, and especially over the top characters. I play Janice, a hippie whose cat just died and she acts hysterical. Then I play Ella, a crotchety old lady. Then Lila, a teenager who can speak to the dead. [..] it’s been a really good show for me to grow and become more confident in my choices,” said senior Isabella Arnett. 

For some actors, this show was a complete change from their normal theatre experience. Alumni stage manager, props master, and cast member Hannah Tarr, who remained a tech student throughout her four years of high school, joined the cast for this production. Being new to the center of the stage and used to being behind the scenes, it challenged her to expand her skillset.

“This show has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone. When we went into that first rehearsal on Monday, I didn’t really know how to get into the actor zone. I was just up there on stage being Hannah Tarr. All that day and the next I had to work really hard to find my three characters and figure out how to show the audience it isn’t Hannah Tarr on stage. I realized the amount of effort that takes, but I also realized how vital it is to making a good performance,” said Tarr.

Even once all the actors were able to find balance within the show and ready to begin performances, another curveball was thrown at them. Arnett noted that it wasn’t until the night before the show when they figured out transitions between scenes. Buddy wrote fake obituaries that were read aloud, giving time for the actors to prepare for the next scene.

The techs for this show were also given a difficult task. Tarr had to plan the show so that the entirety of all set pieces and props could fit into one suitcase.

“As props master, I had to think about the practicality of everything. I had to keep in mind that […] this suitcase was going to be thrown around by people at the airport, so there couldn’t be anything fragile in it. It also couldn’t be too heavy because we had a 50 pound weight limit on the bag. Throughout the whole process I was keeping in mind that things had to be small, light, and strong. I didn’t add an excetra things or anything, we pretty much only had the props that we really needed to have,” said Tarr.

Once everything had come together, the actors and techs alike had to take it all apart and head to Scotland. They left July 29 and didn’t return until two weeks later on August 9. This created some difficulty for the students in the program who wouldn’t be at home for the start of school.

“It hasn’t been easy because my teachers have been really bad at emailing me. I was able to talk c  two in person and one has been emailing me about what I need to do,” said Arnett.

Tarr, though she graduated this past June from FC, is also having to balance college and the trip as well.

“While I’ve been here, I’ve been thinking about what I need to pack for college, what I need to get, and the fact that like a week after I get back I move in,” said Tarr.

Despite the struggles that the start of school has presented, the students within the program have noted that the pros outweigh the cons.

“Now here (at the festival) our audiences have […] laughed at different moments, so it’s brought a different energy, but it has been fun. This whole trip has just been a really cool experience and I’m grateful I’ve been able to have this chance,” said Tarr.

 “Scotland has been amazing and I’m so glad I’ve been able to get closer to everyone on the trip.”


Christmas movie reviews: Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer

By Abby Chovan

With just a glow of a red nose and the beginning chimes of sleigh bells, it does not take much to recognize the iconic 60s claymation Christmas film, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. The film was one of the first of its kind for the time. Although clay stop and go had existed before, never had it existed in such lengths like this before.

The whole film begins with a young Rudolph who discovers his odd quirk of a light up nose. However, his joy is short lived when the other reindeer begin to pick on him for it. When he believes he will never be able to fly for Santa, he flees. Rudolph bands together with two other misfits, Hermey the dentist elf and Yukon Cornelius, the failed gold miner. Together the three go on a journey to find their place as something other than a misfit and learn important lessons along the way.

Rudolph teaches its audience lessons as well. The film holds strong sentiments of anti-bullying morals. One of the whole themes of the movie is that what some people might find as an odd or weird quirk could end up being something that another views as the best part about themselves and that for this reason is detrimental to put others down. The film also teaches and promotes the ideas of self-love and being proud of who you are. This is conveyed when the three misfits, as well as the group of misfit toys, find their way into a new more meaningful path.

It also teaches that standing up for someone takes a lot of courage. Clarice, a female reindeer that is friends with Rudolph, stands up for him despite knowing what others think of him. She finds him as a nice friend and does anything she can throughout the movie to help him feel better.

Overall, the film wowed audiences, especially because of the detailed character design and length of the film as well as its role model qualities for children. Although the movie only lasts a short 50 minutes in comparison to today’s films, it still holds up as very hard work and a great movie that lasted the test of time.

Christmas Movie Reviews: It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, & Frosty the Snowman

By Abby Chovan

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

With a twinkle of lights and the hum of soft voices, the scene of a young man in 1940s America flitters on screen. This man, George Bailey (James Stewart), is made out to be the main focus of the Christmas feature film. The film follows Bailey and his upbringing through various flashbacks as the guardian angel Clarence Oddbody (Henry Travers) studies the boy’s life and the eventual downfall of it. Oddbody has been promised his wings and full “angelship” if he completes his mission on Earth of saving Bailey’s life. The angel takes on the case and watches over the events of Bailey’s life that lead him to such a pivotal moment.

Things start off good for the man as he prepares to head off to college. However, when his father falls ill and passes, Bailey is left to pick up the pieces of his father’s company. He manages to turn things off and ward off the evil money collector, Mr. Potter, (Lionel Barrymore), but in order to keep things on track he allows his brother to go to college in his place. As more time passes, Bailey meets and begins to fall in love with his childhood crush, Mary Hatch (Donna Reed).

As the Bailey family grows and the two lovers begin a life together, things begin to go downhill for the man. Potter looks for any way he can to ruin Bailey’s life, and when he receives the chance to cause trouble, he puts the Bailey family in a sticky situation where they either have to pay up the money they owe or face jail. When Bailey believes all hope is lost, he begins to recklessly fly off the handle and ends up in a life or death situation. This is where Oddbody steps in and helps Bailey understand the importance and effect he had on his community that changed things for the better.

This movie, while not always taking place on Christmas, tells a heart-warming tale that has been shared for many years. Although it holds a dark atmosphere at times, it is a movie that any member of the family can enjoy. It’s A Wonderful Life seemed to trademark what it meant to create a Christmas movie, seeing as it was one of the first of its genre. The movie, however, features many morals of love and family that carry their way through the holiday season, year after year. The film ends in a Christmas movie cliche that brings the whole town together as the screen fades to place, lights twinkle, and voices ring out along to the song ‘Auld Lang Syne.’

White Christmas (1954)

As the camera crinkles and a focus begins to develop, the 1954 movie White Christmas begins its opening scene with a snippet of soldiers on a World War Two base. The men on the base are getting into the holiday spirit as the two main characters Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) and Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) sing the title song to lift everyone’s spirits. Directly after this event and seemingly happy day, chaos erupts as the base comes under fire and Davis saves Wallace’s life by throwing him from the line of fire. Later in the hospital, Wallace finds Davis to thank him for his heroic act and Davis guilt trips the other in joining him in a duet show. After this moment, 10 years of the movie begin to elapse, showing how after the war the two men found themself in a two man group, growing more and more successful as time went on. Time begins to slow, however ,when they recieve a letter from an old army comrade asking them to come and see the act his sisters have put on.

The two men arrive and are immediately  enthralled by the two sisters, older sister Betty Haynes (Rosemary Clooney) and younger sister Judy Haynes (Vera-Ellen),as they perform their singing and dancing act. Though it is never revealed to the two men, Judy really was the one to send the letter in place of her brother. After the show however, Davis and Judy hit it off, meanwhile Wallace and Betty do not. This disagreement is replaced by a much bigger one that causes the men to have to cover for the two girls as they sneak out. They catch up with the women on the train and agree to accompany them to their next act location, a snowy lodge resort in Vermont.

Upon arriving, the men are greeted by their old war General Waverly (Dean Jagger), who just so happens to run the lodge. The lodge, however, lacks guests seeing as there is hardly any sign of snow or reason to stay. The Haynes sisters agree to perform no matter the audience size as Davis and Wallace hatch a plan to put their big flashy show on at the lodge to attract guests. As this all goes on, Judy and Davis also are brewing a plan to get Betty and Wallace together. Things begin to fall apart  as Betty and Wallace have a misunderstanding that they never communicate. Time continues on and Davis continues to try to bring the two together, but to no avail.

This story has a moral for someone of any age to take away from it. Its familial appeal and heartwarming storyline that was a popular trend with many 50s movies draws in a large audience of those seeking a sing-a-long Christmas movie. From its happy-go-lucky characters and wacky numbers, the whole film drips with personality and fun that can be enjoyable for anyone.

Its most notable number by far is Crosby’s rendition of the song White Christmas. Crosby became a hit in this movie for his angelic voice that made his version of the song a classic. Both the movie and the song have remained timeless for years, though its popularity has declined as time has gone on.

Overall, the movie had a great development and aura of nostalgia that allowed all audiences to relate to it. Its incredible score and storyline has created a classic film that will be positively associated with Christmastime for many years to come.

Frosty the Snowman (1969)

With the end of 1969 and the beginnings of the Christmas season came one of the first animated films that over the years would become a classic. This film had a small cast that doubled up on roles and only lasted a short 25 minutes. The short run time was geared towards the fact film was made to be featured on television during the holidays. Frosty the Snowman was an iconic film of its time and continues to remain relevant, even into its 49th year of running.

Its story begins with a group of children who are watching a magician perform a show, though the show ends up ending badly and the children take his hat towards the end. This hat seems to be the only magical thing about the situation, seeing as when they place it on a snowman’s head, he seems to come to life. One of the kids, Karen, names the snowman Frosty and together the kids celebrate the Christmas spirit with this magical new friend. However, the magician takes the hat back in anger, causing all the fun to cease.

The kids are disappointed but are later greeted by the magician’s rabbit, who brings the hat back to them to allow them to have more fun with Frosty. Frosty returns back to life, but another problem erupts as begins to melt under the rising temperatures. All the children begin to hatch another plan to take Frosty to the North Pole. Karen and Frosty embark on this dangerous adventure, facing problems around every turn as both of them have to choose between selfishness and selflessness.

Overall, the film is one that teaches many morals to its audience, including the importance of giving back to others even if the concept might not be favorable. It also teaches the importance and impact that kind actions have, and that if kind and selflessness prevail, good deeds will be rewarded.

This Christmas classic is also highly rated for its high quality animation. Though in comparison to today’s technology it might not seem much, Frosty was a pricey and time consuming project for the time that astonished audiences. However, the bit that hallmarks the film the most would most highly be the title song, which is still sung and celebrated by many today. The songs relevancy ties in well to the relevancy and commonality of the film, which continues to be passed down generations as more Christmases roll around time and time again.