A buzz of whispers fills the moment of darkness. Then the music begins, the lights come up, the actors walk onstage, and the audience is carried away into a magical world of fairy tales and adventures.
Trinity’s fall production “Once Upon A Story,” presented in the E-Theatre on November 16 through 18, was rich in classic children’s literature and filled with laughter and music, the music being perhaps the most surprising element of the production.
While many in the audience preferred the antics of Zac Hardy as Tom Sawyer, and most enjoyed Alex Beals’s portrayal of the senile old king from The Princess Bride, the unexpected treat of the performance was the music.
Brandon Hochstetler opened with a magical rendition of “Pure Imagination” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. About midway through the evening, Samantha Lloyd and Rebecca Spaulding performed the delightful “Stepsister’s Lament” from Cinderella, charming audiences with their references to LifeSong and to demerits and curfew. Perhaps the most hidden talent of the cast was exposed when Libby Varnum took the mic and owned “Somewhere over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz.
It wasn’t an easy journey from script to stage. Having limited rehearsal time and a limited budget, not to mention suffering from a sprained foot and ankle, director Mrs. Bethany Crawford nonetheless worked hard to create the drama. As her husband Dr. Mark Crawford said, “Mrs. Crawford never says that something can’t be done.”
Borrowing the same mindset, the cast and crew worked extremely hard for five weeks to create an unforgettable experience for their audiences. The performers and crew managed nineteen rehearsals over five weeks, staying for hours, painting scenery and practicing their lines over and over—and over again.
They developed a strong bond through late-night practices, minor mishaps, and the common goal of creating an amazing performance. They started traditions such as bringing sweet tea catered by HeBrews Café to their rehearsals and loudly singing “We Will Rock You” before heading out to perform.
The dress rehearsal was a fun and relaxed event. The place came alive as everyone gathered props, makeup kits, and costumes. Andrew Marsh, the light coordinator, turned lights on and off while lowering the screens in the E Theater, ensuring that everything would go smoothly for the first performance.
In the dressing room, male cast members learned to apply their own makeup. They sputtered and mildly protested as they were instructed in the art of applying foundation, which Josh Hochstettler referred to as “that beige stuff.” The girls took great pleasure in the guys’ discomfort and found their questions, such as “Wait. Where does this stuff go again?” and “Does it look even?” extremely amusing.
There was a general spirit of excitement and camaraderie as the cast worked and played together as one big family. Nick LaRocca, Zac Hardy, and Anna Marie Pickles were carefree and happy as they joined in light-hearted banter over which fast food restaurant has the best burgers. They decided on Wendy’s Baconater.
During this conversation, Katy Moncus transformed Chris Mapes into Humpty Dumpty with all the expertise of a professional make-up artist. In true “Chris Mapes” fashion, he made everyone laugh by saying “Lizards!” and laughing in a creepy, high-pitched voice. His white face and bright red lips made the laughter even more eerie and funny.
In the corner, a couple of the guys placed a box over Alex Beals's head and took turns banging on it in time to the “Space Jam” theme song which was playing on someone's iPod. Across the room, Zac Hardy practiced his handstand, and Samantha Lloyd quietly ran through her lines one last time.
This year's production style was Reader's Theater, which meant that there were narrators for most scenes, and the performers looked at the audience rather than at each other, although they would occasionally glance at whomever they were speaking to.
The costuming was different as well. Mrs. Crawford implemented Suggested Costuming which means that instead of having complete costumes for each character, everyone dressed completely in black and added props such as colored wraps, jewelry, sparkling crowns, wands, a large story book, aprons, cravats and topknots to help tell their stories.
As the play began Thursday night, the stress of rehearsals bled off and the adrenaline of performance kicked in, making the wings even more active and fun than the actual performance. The cast played with unused props, danced to the background music and laughed at the funny lines in the play while waiting for their turns to go on stage.
The high spirits continued through the Friday and Saturday night performances, making “Once upon a Story” a great success.
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