Tag Archives: Theatre

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.”


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.

The latest production, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, showcases choir and theatre talent

By Abby Chovan and Hannah Tarr

Photo by Shelby Pennington

The faint ringing of bells echo off a darkened set, only starting to light as a collection of voices begin to sing out from their places on the stage. As more lighting and layers of song are added, an eruption of emotion and music paints the scene for FC’s third and final musical for the year, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Ensemble members and leading actors work together with the A Capella choir and technical students to tell a story unlike one they have ever told. This tale shows contrast against the previous musical, the upbeat Newsies, by taking a turn down a darker-yet-still-as-captivating path.

Audiences who attended any of the performances, which premiered Feb. 9, witnessed months of hard work that started immediately after the close of the show beforehand. Actors, new and seasoned alike, spent the better part of winter break focused on the show, due to the quick turnaround that would follow coming back to school.

“We tried to knock out the basics before break and keep everyone on task with memorization so when we came back, we’d be ready to jump into rehearsals,” said theatre director Robbie Steiner.  

For actors, it was a neck-breaking whip around from the relaxing atmosphere of the holidays to having rehearsals almost every day and spending countless hours on character development.

“Oh, it was the hardest thing ever. Being in a show like Newsies that was so happy and energetic is so different, and when you think of my previous character, Romeo, you don’t think of Frollo,” said junior Noah Hankins, who plays Claude Frollo, Archdeacon of Notre Dame. Frollo is the most powerful cleric in Paris, as well as the uncle and caretaker of the Hunchback, Quasimodo. “Getting out of the New York accent and cocky attitude and into the demented and older character was odd. Romeo had huge stage presence very easily and I had to learn how to give Frollo that presence.”

Starting the process early was especially important due to the sudden shift in technical directors. For the spring semester, college senior and new teacher Sophia Bierman stepped up to tackle the role. Senior Mitchell Lewis, in addition to playing the titular hunchback Quasimodo, took on some director roles of his own in hopes to help improve the show and learn how to be a director. As co-director, Lewis helped Steiner block scenes and call the shots on design decisions. He also ran rehearsals when Steiner was absent for any reason.

Lewis said that his time as co-director taught him time management and how to lead an ensemble, as well as how difficult it is to create and work through blocking complex scenes. He is thankful for the opportunity to co direct Hunchback of Notre Dame, which is his final show at FC.

“The process has been rewarding because it’s enlightened me on how to lead a group,” said Lewis. “It’s been rewarding because this story is just really good, and this is the last show of my high school career. So it’s kind of like my swan song.”

Actors faced not only the pressure of the time crunch and the technical transition, but also had to confront their own feelings. With such an emotional show at task, a lot of draining and taxing work went into perfecting the performance.

“Acting wise, this show is really challenging emotionally. I’ve always been accepting of others and judged others not by how they look but by their personality. Frollo is the opposite of me, so it’s hard to put myself in his shoes,” said Hankins.

Junior Jesse Johnson said that he faced similar difficulties in his role of Phoebus de Martin, hotshot knight who falls for the gypsy Esmeralda.

“Phoebus is, like, in most ways polar opposite of me, because he’s like big huge strong knight guy, and I’m, like, not the tallest and I’m pretty skinny, I’m not super buff or anything. But I’m trying to just relate to certain things that I can connect to myself. And then work on the harder stuff by trying to connect it afterwards.”

While the show tests actors emotions and capability to perform difficult and problematic characters, it also tests singing abilities. Even though the actors are experienced in telling a story with their words, it is a new challenge for much of the A Capella choir.

“A Capella has to actually get into a story for once, like usually whenever we sing we only have to worry about one song, but now we have to worry about all these other songs and how they fit into a story. And now we have to be able to convey a message using them,” said junior Charlotte McFerran.

A certain strength is needed to push through all aspects of the show because, as most actors know, being vulnerable is not easy.

“The show has challenged me to be vulnerable onstage because the content of it is so real, and so you don’t get to be campy, you don’t get to joke around, you have to be honest and be yourself onstage- even though you’re playing somebody else you have to show your own emotions,” said junior Elizabeth Hallal, who plays Esmeralda.

Though the show is more gruesome than previous productions, it has brought a sense of community to its cast and taught the members to think more openly.

“I have learned a lot about community. Because even though, you know, I’m not in the ensemble for this show, the show is an ensemble show. So even the leads are as much of the ensemble as everyone else. And you just have to rely on each other for everything you do and work together and figure out things on your own and that’s just been a good experience,” said Hallal.

In the past, the bond that exists in this cast has not always been there. In a group of so many students, it is easy to fall into a routine of cliques. Towards the beginning of this process, the cast made a promise to stick together and grow instead of break each other down. Lewis wrote down on a sheet of poster paper that he hung on Steiner’s office door the mission statement that the cast invented: “We are doing this show because we want to become united in our acceptance of ourselves and those around us.” The cast has taken living out that mission statement to heart.

“Since this show is smaller, about 24 people, we’ve become a family unit. There has been a lot of cooperation on stage. I found myself working with a lot of actors on stage to find the best way to work together on stage. I’ve seen a lot of friendships building. Our goal was overall to unite and accept, and that’s what we’ve done as a cast. At the end of the show, there is a moment where everyone accepts Quasimodo, and I think it’s a beautiful moment because it’s what a perfect world would look like. We get to live in that perfect world for a moment, and it’s beautiful,” said Hankins.  

Many of the cast members find that, despite the novel it is based off of was written in 1831, a lot of the topics discussed can be related to modern day events.

“I think that this story is just so relevant to times today because people are made monsters because of one thing or another,” said Lewis.

But this show teaches the audience that we are headed in the right direction. Even the past 100 years has shown that acceptance is on the rise and that the world is changing.

“The song ‘Someday’ is about, you know, one day, all of this will be different, there will be acceptance and love in the world. And I think it’s just the perfect time to tell it, because of what’s going on right now and [because] these are problems that we still deal with. We’re the future, our generation is the future of this country and this world, and it’s our job to make these changes,” said Hallal.

Despite this show being put on by only high schoolers, it can incite real change in the world. That change can start on a small scale, as little as one person.

”What I’ve taken away is just like accept people for what they are because you might not even know what they’re going through before you judge them. Like give somebody a chance,” said Johnson.

Hallal and Lewis’ characters draw inspiration from hope that Lewis thinks everyone can learn from.

“The neverending, tenacious hope, that no matter how awful things are, and even if you know things are going to turn out not good, like there’s still hope,” said Lewis.

Hankins is thankful to be able to learn from this show and share its lesson with the world, in the hopes of making change and approaching that “Someday.”

“In a world that’s filled with hatred, we get to a show that reflects that but also turns into acceptance and unification and as students living in that world, it’s good to be in that world for a moment and apply it to our lives,” said Hankins.