Tag Archives: Hannah Tarr

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.

‘New Voices’ allows students to share talent

By Hannah Tarr

Actors Theatre of Louisville is one of the most renowned theatres in the country. Known nationwide for its Humana Festival of New American Plays, it is every playwright’s dream to someday have their script performed on one of its hallowed stages. For two FC students, that dream has come true already.

Like many FC students, junior Caleb Hammer and sophomore Maddie Hankins were required to write a 10-minute play as part of the New Voices residency, and similarly required to then submit that play into the New Voices Young Playwrights Contest. But unlike any other FC students this year, their plays were selected to be produced in the New Voices Young Playwrights Festival.

According to acting teacher Robbie Steiner, that residency works like this: “Students participate in residencies with teaching artists from Actors Theatre who help them learn how to write their own original 10-minute play. After completing their 10-minute play, it is submitted to the New Voices contest at Actors Theatre of Louisville with approximately another 900 plays from around the region.”

From those 900 plays, only eight are selected. It is therefore a huge honor for two FC students to be winners. To have a chance of being selected, a play has to stand out one way or another in order to catch a judge’s eye.

Hankins’ and Hammer’s plays certainly stand out. Hammer’s, Ahab and His Vegetable Garden, is a modern, comedic version of a little-known Bible story from 1 Kings, Naboth’s Vineyard. Hankins’, Sharing in Solitary, is a story about two prisoners who don’t share on Taco Tuesday, and are accidentally sent into the world of a children’s TV show called Bernadette l’adventurier. They are trapped here until they can learn how to share.

“My play is kind of wacky,” admitted Hankins.

Wacky and unique is good, though.

“I appreciate that Actors Theatre picks a lot of unique stuff, because I think it inspires the new voices of our region,” said Steiner.

Listening to the emerging new voices in theatre is what the New Voices contest is all about.

“Students are the future of theatre, you know?” said Jelani Cornick, director of Hammer’s show. “It’s important for students to write plays and keep writing, because inevitably they’ll be people who are going to be on Broadway someday, or writing TV shows, so it’s important for us to acknowledge that students have voices and they’re very important, and we have to tend and foster these voices that everyone has.”

The students’ involvement with their plays does not end when they write the words LIGHTS DOWN and send their play away to be judged. Once selected, students have the privilege of attending rehearsals to see their writing come to life before their eyes.

Hankins explained how the beginning of the rehearsal process worked. “It’s amazing. I love doing it. It started in March, we had three rehearsals, each of them were about a few hours long,” she said. “We would go, and all of the playwrights, and some of the executives, and all of the dramaturgs and directors were in the room. And we would read our plays aloud. We would get feedback not only from the people from Actor’s Theatre, but from our fellow playwrights.”

With the plays refined, rehearsals got into full swing. Hammer and Hankins attended as many rehearsals as they could to be on hand to answer questions and give opinions as needed by the directors.

“The playwrights, they’re always welcome to give their input or not, anything they see, anything they want to hear, I’m very open to that,” said Cornick. “And just having an open dialogue about the play, you know? And just being honest, and trusting each other that we each know what this play needs to be put on.”

To the students, though, it can come as a surprise to realize that they know what the show needs.

“Sometimes they’ll ask me something and I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I didn’t think about that,’” said Hammer.

Hankins loved moments like that. “This is the coolest thing ever to see- gosh. It’s so cool because I got a phone call and they were like, ‘What are your costumes going to look like? What do want your set to look like?’ These are all things that I had never even thought of when I was writing the play,” she said.

Hammer has loved seeing actors turn his play into something really great by adding their own choices that he never even dreamed of to his script. “The plays on their own, they’re okay, but with the actors doing what they do, they just go to an entire other level,” he said.

Cornick, who is a member of Actors Theatre’s Professional Training Company, says that the only difference between working these students’ scripts and those of adults is that students are new at it.“I don’t really change my language, or like change my attitude,” he said. “I treat everyone as an adult, and I respect the playwright because this is their work and they deserve to have everything that they want out of this play because they wrote it.”

Cornick said he likes to hear the unique perspectives of the young playwrights by working on New Voices.

“I don’t get to always meet young people and meet young artists, so working on the New Voices festival really helps me to communicate with the young artists and see where their minds are and see like what the future of theatre is going to be,” he said. “I’m still young, I’m not like an old guy. But it’s just very refreshing, just to be in the same room with a younger generation that has the same interests as me and I’m very happy to know that theatre is going into the right hands.”

After weeks of preparation, the shows opened last week and were very successful. Hankins said the process has been the most amazing thing she’s ever done in her life. “It’s just so cool to watch something that you’ve written turn into something onstage,” she said.

Students from FC took field trips last week to see their classmates’ work being performed. Steiner said the trip was educational for everyone involved.

“I think that it’s important for students to see other students’ work being performed because it shows them what’s possible, shows them that their own creativity is worthy and is important,” he said.

As audiences watched the shows, Cornick said he hoped they would realize the legitimacy of our area’s new voices. “Young voices matter, and they have a lot to say, and we should all listen to them.”

FC Bronze Ringers perform in Disney World

By Hannah Tarr

Last Monday, the FC Bronze Ringers shined a light on an otherwise gray and dismal day in Disney World’s Disney Springs. From a lakefront landing called Waterview Park, 13 of the renowned handbell choir members performed Disney hits for the enjoyment of the tourists passing by.

FC was recruited to perform in Disney by Disney Performing Arts. This organization focuses on giving high school performing arts groups the chance to perform in exhibition or competition in their parks, according to handbells director Angela Hampton.

“[Disney Performing Arts] very often will send this stuff out, ‘Hey, bring your group out and play’,” Hampton said.

Interested groups, including the Bronze Ringers, will then send in an application, photographs, and audition tapes. If Disney thinks the group has the ability, they will place the group in a venue.

“Two of the times the handbells have performed in Disney, that venue has been Epcot,” said Hampton. The other two were both in Disney Springs, Disney’s shopping district. All four performances have been in exhibition, though there are competitive festivals a few times a year.

Traveling to Disney was optional for FC handbell students. Of the 40-something Bronze Ringers Hampton said she directs, 13 chose to travel to Orlando over Spring Break to perform.

“I love Disney, and I love handbells,” said senior Isabelle Langford. Because of that, her decision of whether or not to go to Disney was a simple one.

Hampton, a self-described “Disney junkie,” was excited not only for the trip itself, but for the educational value of performing — for both musicians and audience members.

“A lot of people don’t even know what handbells is,” she said. “So we get to kind of show people what it is that we do.”

Most important, though, is the students getting to perform in an entirely different environment than the one they are used to. When performing for family members in Floyds Knobs, it is assumed that the audience will appreciate the performance. But down in Florida, the audience could be entirely critical strangers.

“The exposure outside of that comfortable element is really good, and it makes you better every time,” said Hampton.

The students had a different way of putting it, though. After the performance, sophomores Delaney Bigler and Delaney Agnew agreed on a phrase to describe the performance: “nerve-racking.”

“But we overcame our challenges,” said Bigler. “We just played through.”

Overcoming the challenges that often come with performing was part of the magic of the Spring Break trip, and the challenges didn’t stop there. In the hour leading up to the Bronze Ringers’ performance, there was a rain shower, as there so often is during Florida afternoons. The rain let up just in time, but the performers feared its return.

“I was really nervous about the performance because of the rain threat and the wind,” said Langford. That wind which had come with the storm proved to be a real nuisance. It furiously tore at the performers’ music- so much so that Langford said that at one point, the music of everyone around her flipped to the back page. They were all playing from memory for about a page until she got a chance to flip her music again.

In spite of so many factors working against them, the Bronze Ringers raised their bells in unison as Hampton conducted them to do so. On her cue, they rang their bells in melody and harmony, sending sparkling Disney tunes through the air of Disney Springs, just like Disney magic.

“I think we did a great job,” said Langford. “Plus, we were playing at the happiest place on Earth, which made it even better.”