Preparation for ‘Carousel’ dizzying
With the Wednesday night dress rehearsal for "Carousel" less than 48 hours away, faculty directors Mary Etta Copeland and Hollie Becker were both finding ways to navigate their production down what was becoming a very bumpy road.
Ordinarily, the school musical is presented during of what is commonly known as "buffer week" between fall and winter high school athletics. With the musical being moved up one week, it has run head-on into a scheduling conflict with the soccer team that advanced to the final round of state competition after a Tuesday night victory. That's a problem because the musical relies on some of the same students to score on stage and the soccer field this weekend.
Becker and Copeland could do very little to go back and make wholesale changes in the production. By Tuesday morning, they had accepted the reality that soccer players, cheerleaders, and other students in the musical might be making the trek to see the soccer team play at state, instead of being on hand for Friday and Saturday night performances.
"You already have so much stress going on that you don't need to think about these things," Becker said. "Our attitude is to just wait and see how these things play out and then cross that bridge if and when you have to. Otherwise, you're wasting your time trying to deal with problems you have no control over."
As Becker sat in the projectionist booth atop Little Theatre, Copeland was down below warning students that the new cordless microphone devices being attached to their costumes had cost the school a pretty penny.
"These things cost $1,000 a piece," Copeland said. "They are brand new, and very sensitive. Remember to hide them within your clothing."
As luck would have it, the new equipment did not function properly. By late Tuesday afternoon, Copeland had to put her faith in the hands of the company who produced the cordless microphones and hoped that they would come through on their promise to overnight ship two new (and functioning) cordless microphones overnight.
"These are the first wireless microphones we've ever used for a school production," Becker said. "We still have three working, so if the other two don't arrive we can still make do with what we have. These things happen, and you just deal with it."
Aside from the last minute catastrophes, Becker and Copeland were satisfied with the progress being made before the curtain was raised on opening night. The musical was being double-cast for only the third time in school history. This opened the door to Carousel's roles for two sets of actors.
"We have the largest number of students involved with theater than ever before, here at school," Becker said. "There is so much talent that we saw in auditions, that you don't want to limit kids' opportunities to be involved with their school. Plus, I always hated the idea of 'understudies' who did all the work, but only got to perform once."Copeland said the school's ability to do little things, such as opening opportunities to students by double casting the school's musical, was a key to getting parents to move into the district. The relatively small school sizes afforded their children a chance to be involved with their school on a level that could not be achieved in a larger schools, she said.
"The big word here with us is 'opportunity,'" Copeland said. "Anytime we can open the door for students to get involved is a good deal for the school."
In addition to double-casting, Becker and Copleand are amazed at how the students have been able to "double-dip" into other after school activities while they prepare simultaneously for this week's performances.
"Today, students just seem to want to be in everything, which forces you to accommodate them in some areas," Copeland said. "We stress school as the first priority and make sure there is no neglect taking place there. Still, rehearsals have to be altered usually because of other outside activities, and not because of grades."
Scott Karitz and Mary Roellchen are two such seniors at De Soto High School who have been double-dipping into other school interests while maintaining their work with the musical. Both students juggle part-time jobs, a sport, and schoolwork with the musical.
"As a football captain, I didn't have a choice to miss something," Karitz said. "And with football, plus the performances being pushed up a week I feel I'm a bit behind where I want to be (learning my dialogue), but it always seems to come together and be ready when it's time to go."
Having been a part of the school's production of "Oklahoma" two years ago, Roellchen is eager to jump into a more dialogue-driven musical, such as Carousel. The unusually large amount of dialogue has already caused multiple sleepless nights for her and the actors.
"Some nights you seem to fall asleep while you are still rehearsing lines in your head," Roellchen said. "We've done really well this year getting out of rehearsals before ten o'clock, but then you seem to be up another couple hours every night just going back over your lines."
The hard work of the past five weeks will all culminate with this week's performances. Copeland and Becker hope that, regardless of the outcome of the performances, the students will come away from the experience having learned a lesson that is much bigger than theatre and acting.
"What they learn leading up to and during their performances are the lessons of life," Copeland said. "The experiences they have together now are going to impact their lives 20 years from now. This is a lot of hard work, but I think they see that it's all worth it."
Tickets for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night's performances, which are from 6 to 8 p.m., are $5 for adults and $3 for students in grades kindergarten through 12. They may be ordered by calling 583-8370.