Category Archives: Theatre

FC Theatre Students Shine on Community Stages

By Hannah Tarr

In the coming weeks, four FC theatre students will be taking the stage and doing what they love.

Actually, these performers will be taking to four different stages across the community. Sophomore Annie Bulleit, junior Ryland Sparkman, sophomore Caroline Siegrist, and junior Taylor Lockhart are involved in productions outside of FC. For each of them, the chance to perform outside of school is a great opportunity to learn and gain experience in the art they love.

Annie Bulleit- The Diary of Anne Frank at Shelby Community Theatre this weekend

Bulleit stars as Anne Frank in the play based on her diary, playing at Shelby Community Theatre in Shelbyville, Kentucky this weekend and last. Bulleit found out about this show, her first at Shelby Community Theatre, through the director, who she knew through working on a previous show. Rehearsals started about two months before the show opened last Friday. For Bulleit, this role is a dream come true.

“Anne Frank is one of my dream roles. I’ve always wanted to play her,” said Bulleit. “It’s an amazing role.”

Of course, this role is not just any role. It is the true story of a young girl who died during the Holocaust, which is no trivial matter. Bulleit, a self-proclaimed history nerd, has great interest in this topic, and she has enjoyed getting to learn about the history through this process.

“I’ve learned a lot about the Holocaust and that it affected more than just the Jews but also the brave Germans who were willing to help them,” said Bulleit.

Bulleit hopes audiences will come to the show and learn the story and history for themselves. She thinks the story of Anne Frank and the Holocaust is very important for all people to know, and the show is a great way to learn about them.

“It’s important that this show doesn’t die in history,” she said. “People need to know about it so we don’t end up repeating our mistakes.”

A show with such grave subject matter is obviously challenging, and playing the lead makes it even more so. But Bulleit is facing the challenge head-on.

“I’m excited to play the lead in such a demanding and dramatic show,” said Bulleit.

This weekend is the final weekend she gets the opportunity to be the lead in a show such as this. Tickets to come see her are available at shelbytheatre.org. Student tickets are $11. As the show closes this weekend, Bulleit is thankful for her time getting to portray Anne Frank.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to get to do what I love,” said Bulleit.

Caroline Siegrist- Newsies at Derby Dinner Playhouse now through May 19

As a freshman, Siegrist made waves when she starred in Newsies at FC as Katherine Plumber. This month, she is doing the show again, which opened last night at Derby Dinner Playhouse. Her role this time around is one of the Bowery Beauties, the vaudeville performers Katherine reviews for a newspaper. But Siegrist has not given up Katherine entirely. She understudies the role, meaning if the actress who plays Katherine is ever unable to come to a performance, Siegrist will go on for the part. And in addition to being a Bowery Beauty and understudying Katherine, she operates a spotlight during the scenes she is not onstage.

“I’ve never gotten to [operate the spotlight] before and that was a really fun thing to learn,” said Siegrist.

Derby Dinner frequently enlists its actors with a less busy track to do things like operate spotlight. Siegrist is well familiar with the way Derby Dinner operates: Newsies is her twelfth show at the theatre.

“I absolutely love having the opportunity to do shows there,” she said. “I love this show, and I learn so much when I’m in shows at Derby Dinner.”

It makes sense that, after piloting it in November of 2017 and taking it to the International Thespian Festival in June, Newsies holds a special place in her heart. But her love for the show is not built only on her past experiences with it, or the fact that she loves the music. She thinks that it teaches audiences a valuable lesson.

“It is so important because it reminds people, especially younger people, that they have a voice and it’s so important that they speak their minds,” said Siegrist.

In the show, the newsies realize that their voices are so much stronger when they bond together as a family. In rehearsal, Siegrist has found that the same is true of her and her castmates, and they have formed a family of sorts, too.

“I just love the people in it, and it’s so much fun to perform with them,” she said.

It is sure to also be a fun show to watch. Tickets are available at derbydinner.com. Prices range from $39 to $49 depending on the day of the week, and admission includes Derby Dinner’s buffet. With shows multiple times a week from April 4 to May 19, there are plenty of opportunities to see the family of Newsies in action.

Ryland Sparkman- Macbeth at Washington County Community Theatre this weekend

Sparkman has been doing theatre for most of his life. His first ever show was at Washington County Community Theatre in Salem, Indiana, when he was just four years old and he played a lost boy in Peter Pan. This weekend, he is in something a little different: he is featured as Malcolm, the prince of Cumberland, in Macbeth. Rehearsals started in February, and when Sparkman chose to audition, he knew he would be challenging himself.

“I’ve learned that acting isn’t easy. It’s very hard and when done right, can be incredible,” said Sparkman.

One of the most challenging things about a Shakespeare play is always its language. His words twist and turn, and can take focused analysis in order to discover the meaning.  Rehearsal is exactly the time to analyze the words, and the actors discovered not just the meaning of the play but its beauty as well.

“Learning Shakespeare is so hard but so worth it,” said Sparkman. “The story is gorgeous, even with the old words.”

Old words do not necessarily mean Macbeth has old subject matter, however. Sparkman’s cast have been discussing how the plot and theme are relevant, even four centuries after the show was written.

“The story is very important in today’s age. The idea of ‘fake news’ was examined thoroughly and it shows what happens if people show their true selves,” he said.

Another heavy theme of the show is death. With all of the killing that Macbeth and his men do, Macbeth is considered one of Shakespeare’s most bloody shows. The show leads to an important conversation about death, and, luckily, Sparkman has some great people to have that conversation with, and to tell the story with onstage.

“What excites me is being able to perform alongside some of my best friends in the world,” said Sparkman.

To see Sparkman and his friends perform, go to Washington County Community Theatre at 7:30 tonight and tomorrow or 2 on April 7. Tickets will be available at the door. The address is 402 N Harrison Street, Salem, Indiana.

Taylor Lockhart- The Secret Garden at TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana May 8-19

While Bulleit, Siegrist, and Sparkman all had connections to their theatres or shows, Lockhart has no previous experience with TheatreWorks, located in New Albany. He knew TheatreWorks had The Secret Garden in its season, and as a fan of the show this piqued his interest; but, assuming there would be no high school roles, he never thought to audition for it. That is, until he saw The 21st Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at TheatreWorks and talked to the actors after the show. One of them encouraged him to audition for The Secret Garden, and he jumped at the opportunity.

“As I practiced my audition song and listened to the cast recording, I realized I was falling in love with a show I wasn’t even sure I was apart of yet and that I needed to be in this cast,” said Lockhart.

The audition worked out for Lockhart. He was cast as Dickon, a boy who befriends the main character, Mary, and helps her. This is one of Lockhart’s first experiences getting to play someone near his own age– at FC, since the whole cast is high schoolers, teenagers must play the show’s entire range of ages. Lockhart says he usually gets stuck playing a grumpy old man. But at TheatreWorks, people from all walks of life can audition and be cast, so grumpy old men can play grumpy old men while high schoolers like Lockhart can be cast as someone their own age. This, of course, is not the only difference between FC shows and community theatre, and he has enjoyed exploring the many differences.

“I learned how much fun it is to work in different spaces,” said Lockhart. “I’m simply having a blast and getting new perspectives from people that I’ve never got before. It’s important to work with different people and I’ve really begun to learn what exists outside of high school theatre.”

Playing someone his own age is not the only advantage Lockhart is getting from his involvement in community theatre. This is also one of his first times playing what might be considered a bigger character, and although rehearsals have only been happening since the end of March, he has already become familiar with the added responsibilities and challenges presented. For instance, in his experience singing in the ensemble, there were always people to back him up if he messed up. But when singing a solo, there is no room for error.

“When you are playing a bigger character you have a responsibility to know songs before you practice them and make sure you are doing tons of outside work,” said Sparkman. “I’ve had to work much harder at this show and I’ve grown much more in how I rehearse for shows. It’s a very new experience but one I’m working hard at and becoming a better singer and actor as I do.”

It is not all hard work, though. Lockhart finds many moments during rehearsal in which to have fun– take, for example, the fact that Dickon gets to carry a conjuring stick.

“I love getting to work with props, especially props that move and are used by the character in massive ways,” he said. “I can throw the stick in the air and then catch it at a high point in a song, I can lean on the stick as it gets to a calmer point in the song, I can point with the stick to something I’m talking about, you see there is a hundred things I can do with just a simple stick and molding it with my character and figuring out all those choices to how I use that prop alone excites me.”

There is more to the show that excites him than just a stick, of course. The whole experience has been a great time for Lockhart.

“I get to work with such incredible singers and actors. I get to work with challenging but incredibly rewarding music and accents, and I’m pretty sure I get to wear a newsboy cap. It’s simply fun. I’m having a blast every second of the way and as you can see I’m excited by every dumb little thing that I get to work with or play with. I feel like a child and this character is really breathing life into me just as much as I am with it,” said Lockhart.

One of the elements he especially enjoys about the show is its challenging and beautiful music. He says the show is incredible, and the music is the key highlight of it.

“The music is very operatic and nothing like pop rock musicals of today but still really engaging. I never found myself getting bored listening to it and I think that’s because The Secret Garden is never dull and never drags on,” he said. “The music weaves itself like a quilt as it helps bring the story to life. [Composer] Lucy Simon is a genius and it’s one of the only shows in history I can recall that I’ve have had tears well up in my eyes because of how beautiful it was.”

Lockhart says The Secret Garden is not sad, but it still pulls you emotionally. It is a story about grief, and moving on from the past, and the musical faces this theme more directly than the novel it was based off of did.

“Mary and Archibald have both lost people around them and seem to wander around Misselthwaite Manor as if they themselves have been lost. The story is how they find themselves and learn to live with their losses,” he said. “Characters from Archibald and Mary’s past haunt them until they find their new lives. It’s beautiful and something that is far from a simple children’s story. “

This beautiful show is still a while away from performances: it performs May 8-11 at 7:30, May 12 at 2, May 15-18 at 7:30, and May 19 at 2. Tickets are available at theatreworksofsoin.com/tickets. Student tickets are $16. If you happen to miss this show, keep an eye out for Lockhart performing more at TheatreWorks in the future: he says he would love to be involved with more shows there.

 

Discovering Irving Berlin’s Path to Blue Skies

By Hannah Tarr

Christmas Day, 1980. A group of carolers hark outside a house, singing the same song they have been singing at this same house for 26 years: “White Christmas.” But inside, the sole resident is having none of it. “They don’t understand the gift I’ve given them!” he cries. To understand this gift, we must first understand the old man: he is Irving Berlin, composer of White Christmas. In his performance as Berlin, Hershey Felder leads the audience to understand Berlin with healthy mix of comedy and respect.

The performance, playing now at Actor’s Theatre, is a one-man show. Felder, with a raise of his voice and a change in his body language, convincingly becomes Berlin for an uninterrupted hour and a half. Felder runs through the beats of Berlin’s life and how each inspired his music: his childhood in Imperial Russia, his family’s immigration to America, his father’s love for singing and the way that inspired him to become a singing waiter and eventually compose his own music. Felder performs all of Berlin’s standards over the course of the show at the grand piano at center stage. Unlike Berlin, who could only play in the key of F-sharp, Felder is an accomplished musician, and the musical segments are the highlight of the show.

Felder’s portrayal of Berlin’s life flows well from happy points to sad points. He marries Dorothy Goetz, and it seems like life is going to be blue skies forever. But five months after they return from their honeymoon, Goetz dies from typhoid. Berlin is depressed about this for a long time, but eventually is coaxed by Goetz’s brother into writing about it, and this becomes his first hit ballad. It resonates with people around the globe. But one way or another, life moves on, and soon enough Felder is showing us Berlin’s up-tempo songs again and smiling.

The set was a living room dressed for Christmastime, with a piano in the center, a wheelchair on one side to symbolize Berlin as an old man, and an armchair on the other to symbolize Berlin’s second wife, Ellin Mackay. This unit set allowed the focus to always be on Felder’s portrayal, without any distractions for gimmicks. The lights changed color with the mood- red at high moments in Berlin’s life, blue at the low. Area lights came up and dimmed smoothly as Felder walked across the stage, to appropriately keep him illuminated at all times. The set and lighting were enhanced effectively by projections. A picture frame on the back wall above the mantle was often used to show historical photographs of Berlin and his family, or video clips of Fred Astaire performing Berlin’s music in a moving picture. All the walls of the living room were sometimes used for atmospheric projections– the projected wallpaper would fade away, and be replaced by animations of Berlin’s home village burning down, or of his family’s tenement apartment in New York. The projections were soft enough that the light level never fluctuated, but still very easily visible.

By the end of the show, Felder has brought us to empathize with and understand Berlin. We know “God Bless America” is from an immigrant’s point of view, thanking the country for all of the opportunities it has given him. We know “White Christmas” is about how Christmas, which used to be his wife’s favorite holiday, was ruined for them when their infant son passed away Christmas morning. We know he grew bitter as an old man as young people like Elvis Presley took over the musical spotlight, and the world began to forget what Berlin’s music had been worth. But we know that in spite of all of this, he has reasons to count his blessings instead of sheep at night, and maybe Felder’s portrayal of this icon who was a real human will lead the audience to start doing that, too.

Felder began performing as Berlin on Sept. 5 of last year in New York. He is now taking the show around the country, and he is performing it at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville until Feb. 17.

Senior theatre students lead audition workshop

sophia perigo mathilda photo
“My favorite thing about theatre is how I can forget my life when I’m onstage and become someone else. Doing that with the people I love is just the icing on the cake,” said senior Sarah Seay. Photo by Sophia Perigo.

By Hannah Tarr

Last year, FC’s Newsies was advertised to students wanting to audition as the once-in-a-lifetime chance to pilot a musical. But this summer, director of theatre arts Robbie Steiner announced that, for returning students, it is actually a twice-in-a-lifetime chance. Steiner announced in an email to the department in July that instead of Children of Eden, FC’s fall musical will be a pilot of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

Matilda is a fun new musical with lots of great roles for both high schoolers and younger kids,” said Steiner in the email.

Many great roles means more competition at auditions for those roles, and a pilot means greater than normal stakes and stress. Luckily, the FC Thespian Troupe President, senior Elizabeth Hallal, had a plan for how to help actors feel more confident going into their audition.

On Wednesday, Aug. 1, the day before Matilda auditions, she and five other senior actors held an audition workshop. An audition workshop is not an unprecedented occurrence in FC Theatre. In fact, Hallal got the inspiration from a workshop held before another big audition in FC history.

“My freshman year, preparing for 42nd Street auditions, the juniors and seniors held an audition workshop for the first years and incoming freshman students. And so I thought, ‘Why not apply that to these kids?’” said Hallal. “Because that was so, so beneficial to me.”

This year’s workshop was likewise beneficial to its participants. It was open to anyone planning to audition, according to Hallal, but especially those who wanted tips or feedback. Senior Grace Sims, an Intro to Theatre student, explained that she had never auditioned for an FC show, so she was looking forward to those tips and feedback.

“I didn’t know what it was going to be like, so I had a couple questions for the people who had experience in the department,” Sims said.

Luckily, the workshop provided plenty of opportunities for students with questions to get an insight into what to expect from the next day. The workshop congregated in the dance studio, and they split into three groups. These groups rotated throughout stations, with each station focusing on teaching the participants a specific focus of the audition preparation and process.

In the inner lobby of the auditorium, Hallal and junior Emily North, an FC Thespian Troupe Board Member, talked about the general process of auditions, callbacks, and casting. They used humor to clear up some common misconceptions about theatre: that precasting happens, that because you did not get a callback means you are not in the show, that the ensemble is unimportant to a show. They also shared some essential tips about auditioning from Steiner and choir director Angela Hampton: never apologize for anything, always audition to the best of your ability, and remember that casting is difficult because everyone who is auditioning is unique in amazing ways.

Finally, Hallal and North told the participants that the audition they were going into the next day might not be their audition. They might not get the role they wanted, or even into the show at all. But they assured the participants that this was normal. Both of them had experienced that before because everyone in theatre experiences that. They said that there is a show out there for everyone. They encouraged their audience to continue auditioning and never giving up until they find it.

In another station, back in the dance studio, senior Sarah Seay, an FC Thespian Troupe Council Member, and senior Cooper Pennington, a directing apprentice, discussed the dance call aspect of the audition. They explained the essentials of what to expect at the dance call, how choreographer Megan Bliss would decide who she wants to cast, the importance of stretching, and what to wear. An important point of discussion was the difference between dancers and movers. Dancers, they said, are people like Seay, who are trained in dance and know how to do specific moves. Movers, on the other hand, are people who, like Pennington, are great at faking it. Both are important to a production. Pennington explained to the movers in the room the key to faking it: just smile.

“Smile, and they’re going to look more at your face than your feet,” said Seay.

She and Pennington also explained that it is okay to mess up during dance call.

“Even the best dancers struggle with auditions because you’re learning something really fast,” she said. “They’re not looking for you to fail, they don’t want you to fail.”

She said it is more important that you can do it better the second time than that you get it right the first time, because Bliss wants to work with people who are coachable and can take critique.

In the choir room, the final station, senior Noah Hankins, the FC Thespian Troupe Vice President, and senior Jesse Johnson, a directing apprentice, explained how the singing portion of the audition would work. They talked about how to pick a song, what to wear, and how to introduce yourself before singing. They let each participant practice their audition song, in order to simulate what the audition would be like the next day. Then, they offered feedback for how to be even better. But to those participants who were not confident in their singing, they offered reassurance that the performance was not the most vital part of the audition.

“You don’t have to be a good singer, you don’t have to be a good dancer, you don’t have to be a good actor. You just have to have a good personality,” said Hankins. “That’s the biggest tip we have for you. Just be yourself.”

The choir room portion of the workshop was the part that Sims found most valuable.

“I was really nervous about going in and singing in front of people I’d never sang in front of before, and singing in a different room I’ve never sang a solo in before, so it helped me a lot to be able to sing in the room and sing in front of people before I went into the audition,” she said.

She also appreciated the reassurance about just being yourself.

“It was nice to have peers to talk to (people nervous about the audition) and tell them, ‘Don’t worry about it’,” she said.

Hallal is glad to have gotten to use this workshop to quell the anxieties of people who have never auditioned before.

“I think it’s always important to reach out to kids and encourage them to audition,” she said. “I think a lot of people are scared to do that, but if we can help them feel more comfortable, then they might get a lot more out of the process, as well as get the opportunity to be involved with such a close-knit group of kids and such a great program.”

Hallal plans to hold more workshops this year to continue educating new students about theatre, as well as to cultivate that close-knit group of students that is the theatre department.

“I think that doing them regularly would be beneficial to the development of our students,” she said.

Finally, she shared her number one tip for anyone auditioning for any show, big or small.

“My number one thing to tell people is just to remember that it’s not about the directors. When you audition for a show, it’s about you. It’s your time to say, ‘This is who I am, this is what I can do, and I’m proud of that.’ What anybody else thinks is irrelevant.”

FC was asked this summer by Music Theatre International to pilot the high school production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Rehearsals begin at the end of August, and the show opens at the beginning of November. Subscribe to The Bagpiper for future coverage.