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Thursday, 18 February 2016 05:13

Eagle Butte a wonderland for thespians

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Sydney Blatz as one of those playing the role of 'Alice.' Sydney Blatz as one of those playing the role of 'Alice.' Ryan Dahlman

Part of what makes seeing Eagle Butte School theatrical productions so worthwhile is the versatility and enthusiasm of the students and their leaders music and choral teacher Ann Morrison and director Scott Raible who teaches drama and English.

A recent rehearsal of the Feb. 25-27 production of Alice in Wonderland was a good demonstration of that enthusiasm.
It was interesting to watch as the students whose characters weren’t even part of the particular scene were lip syncing other character’s lines or actually took part as extras. Much like the whimsical play, the students are enjoying themselves, but not to the point of goofing around. There is a genuine respect for the classic and while the pure enjoyment of the story comes through, they are serious about doing it justice on stage.
In a classroom with anywhere from 10-20 students at a time, the young thespians rehearsed scenes which jumped all over different timeframes in the book.
Alice in Wonderland is one of British author Lewis Carroll’s most famous stories, so when the uber-talented Eagle Butte High School students put on a production of it, theatre goers should take notice.
Coming off of last year’s successful Tarzan run, the school decided to go with Alice and students were excited.
Alyssa Renke is one of the two Queen of Hearts and is a veteran of Eagle Butte productions.
“They gave us a choice,” explains the personable Renke who says the choreography was critical last year. “As soon as we knew we could choose this, we jumped on it. It’s so funny, it’s so much a ‘word’ play.
“(Plus), when we’re rehearsing it’s fun. It’s whimsical and some of it makes no sense, so as far as the fun goes, it’s the perfect (dialogue) for us.”
They also follow the practice of having two sets of main characters which allows for more students to get big parts and if worse comes to worse, someone is unable to go that night, there’s always a more-than-capable person to step in.
She says it keeps everyone on their toes to keep time with the chorus orchestra/band and do it all of the same cadence perfectly. She says despite the fact the overall cast is a bit younger than in past years, the actors and actresses are blending together extremely well.
“We feed off of each other,” explains Renke with a smile. “Someone will try to do something and we go from there. Our personality traits come through. For example, one of us may be more ‘happy’ than the other or may be more joking around ... we test it out to see who has better chemistry amongst which set of actors works better with who. We’re not pairing up right away.”
Another actress who is sharing a role is Sydney Blatz, 17, a senior student who will be one of the Alice characters in the production.
“It’s an honour to play the character. I’m really grateful to be in on this,” explains Blatz. “It’s a big responsibility.”
What makes Eagle Butte renowned for their arts program is being able to not get into any sort of routine or only doing certain types of shows.
Last year, in Tarzan, there were a lot of songs but there was much more in the way of physical action and choreography was paramount.
Choreography is also important in Alice, but now there is emphasis on character development. The differences are not lost on Blatz. She feels with Alice, it’s her responsibility to set the tone with her character being the focal point.
“There was a lot of physical movement in Tarzan. We were crouched down all the time,” says Blatz. “(As Alice) there’s a lot more on my shoulders. The cast is really supportive as far as the stress levels go. Alice’s character has to make it flow.”
Another student who was feeling some stress was Haley Gyug, 16. She is appearing in her first production. When auditions were announced she wasn’t necessarily looking for a musical part despite the fact she has experience with piano, flute, violin and trumpet.
In the production, she will play live music as the March Hare. She initially was going for the Cheshire Cat role, but is happy with who she will play now.
“They said, ‘you can do it ... we need a trumpet player’,” says Gyug recalling the conversation she had with the leaders.
Gyug has been playing trumpet for three and a half years. She had tried the other instruments, but felt most comfortable with the trumpet.
“It’s scary to get up in front of a one hundred or a thousand people and perform.”
She’s working on her lines and says the cadence, sequence and timing are critical when it comes to her portion of the production. She appreciates the amount of time and effort it takes to practise to get everything right, from the timing of the music with the characters’ lines all the way to a solo.
“Everything depends on the conductor,” adds Gyug.
All of the actresses say they wouldn’t change anything and are grateful they have been part of the theatrical production. It has helped them personally.
“It’s definitely given me a boost of confidence,” says Gyug. “I was nervous to talk to people.
“The entire experience has given me confidence, significantly,” explains Blatz. “I didn’t have a lot of self esteem when I started. With this, I feel a lot better about myself.”
“It’s definitely time management for me,” says Renke. “You have to learn how to fit everything in your schedule. Plus my confidence is way up.”
The Eagle Butte production of Alice In Wonderland will be on stage at the Esplanade from Feb. 25 -27, with three nightly shows at 7 p.m. and an additional matinee Feb. 27 at 1 p.m. Cost to see this production is $15 plus service charges and GST.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor