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Fall musical is part of global production

Students in the Musical Theatre Production class have a unique performance opportunity next weekend, Nov. 11-12. This year’s fall musical is one that will literally be performed around the world.

The students are taking part in All Together Now! A Global Event Celebrating Local Theatre, a concert-style show prepared by Music Theatre International and offered free to organizations all across the world. Allowing theatre programs to present the show without any fees is an attempt to help local theatres draw audiences back, and the PHS Theatre Department is happy to be part of it, director Mrs. Ellen Holifield said.

“This is an effort to help theatres get back on their feet after the pandemic, and it is only available for one weekend,” Mrs. Holifield said. “It is happening in all 50 states and over 40 countries with more than 5,500 productions total. So, it is a fun project, a little different for us, but pretty awesome.”

The students are looking forward to being part of a global event as well. Sophomore Mary Furnish said she likes the feeling of solidarity with other performing artists around the world.

“It makes us feel united and connected,” Mary said. “You’re not alone in it. We’re building up a lot of love and strength around the world through this show.”

Senior Jack Kaiser likes that it draws attention back to public performances.

“It brings the whole nation together to make better theatre departments, so people can pursue their musical theatre dreams,” Jack said.

Mary said she also likes that the show is a compilation of many different musicals, giving the performers and the audience a lot of variety.

“It brings a lot of life and air into it,” Mary said.

Her favorite song is “Seize the Day” from Newsies, in which she is in the ensemble, especially because it starts out slow and then builds to a faster pace. She also likes when all the various melodies blend together into a single harmony.

“The range of voices makes one unique voice, and it’s very cool,” Mary said.

Junior Jackson Bettler said his favorite song is “Be Our Guest” from Beauty and the Beast for its choreography and style.

“It’s a fun song, and everyone gets involved in it,” Jackson said.

Jack said his favorite is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” from Mary Poppins, in which he portrays Bert.

“The choreography is a lot of fun,” Jack said.

Junior Maddie Beeler, who portrays Mary Poppins in the number, agrees.

“There’s a lot of movement, and a lot going on,” Maddie said.

Maddie said audiences will enjoy the show not only for everything that’s going on on stage but also because it features so many different types of songs.

“The audience will like the variety that we have,” Maddie said. “It’s fast paced one moment and then a slow ballad the next. Plus the staging is different than for songs we normally do.”

All Together Now! showtimes are Friday, Nov. 12, and Saturday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 14, at 2:00 p.m. in the Robinson Auditorium. Tickets are $5, and will be sold at the door. All proceeds from the tickets will support the Providence Performing Arts Department.

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Acting skills go beyond the PHS stage

Our students’ talents often extend beyond our own stage or athletic court. Two juniors are proof of just that. Junior Ainsley Wilt is in a short film that recently won in three categories in the Louisville 48 Hour Film Project, and junior KB Merchant has been cast in Derby Dinner Playhouse’s production of A Christmas Story.

Ainsley is one of seven actors in the film For Your Consideration sponsored by K9K Productions. The coming-of-age film focuses on emotional recovery and students with disabilities. Ainsley plays a student with the learning disability dyslexia.

Being part of a film that was written, filmed, and edited in one weekend was exhausting but fun, she said. The screenwriter received the script requirements at 7 p.m. on Friday and wrote the script until 3 a.m. The cast arrived at Charlestown High School at 7 a.m. for filming and worked all day. The production crew spent the following day on the editing. 

Learning the film was selected as one of the finalists for the premiere screening and won the Audience, Best Writing, and Best Cinematography awards was even better.

“It felt great (to be part of it),” Ainsley said. “I was really excited I got to do it.”

Ainsley was invited to be part of the cast through a family friend whose daughter, Ryley Nicole, is a professional actress. Ainsley has some acting experience and modeling experience, but as far as film-making goes, she is more likely to be behind the camera rather than in front of it. She enjoys making her own movies using her GoPro camera and even created a promotional video for Mathes Pharmacy.

Ainsley does hope to do more acting in the future and is looking for a new acting agency to represent her, she said. In the meantime, she is looking forward to the possibility of the cast traveling to Los Angeles for the screening of the film.

Musical theatre student to perform at Derby Dinner

KB will portray Marjorie, a school yard kid, in the musical version of A Christmas Story. She has been in the cast of two previous children’s show productions at the Derby Dinner, but this is her first main stage production and is thrilled to be in one.

“I’ve been wanting to be on the main stage for a while, so getting the opportunity to be in it is really exciting,” KB said.

Working with professional actors on a main stage is much more intense than performing in a children’s show, especially the rehearsals, she said. She leaves school early to take part in the 12-hour sessions, which started last Monday and continue until Nov. 10. The show will run Nov. 10-Dec. 30.

But KB said she is friends with many of the actors and the production team at Derby Dinner thanks to being in other shows. She also knows many of the 22 young actors who make up the cast from other local theatre productions as well as previous Derby Dinner shows, so that makes working them even more enjoyable.

She also likes the show itself.

“It’s so fun,” KB said. “It’s a lot like the movie, but it’s a musical.”

Her favorite is the Wild West number, and she also enjoys the kick line featuring the iconic leg lamps.

The show has a dual cast, and she will be in 32 of 64 shows, with 11 child actors in each cast. She said it’s particularly fun seeing some of the young actors experience working at the dinner theatre for the first time. Many have not done theatre-in-the-round before, something she enjoys because staging is more flexible since the actors don’t have to face the front. Still, it does have its challenges, including watching out for errant chairs that may be in the aisles as they make their way on stage.

Even though it is hard work, KB said it almost doesn’t feel that way because she enjoys acting so much – but she does enjoy getting a paycheck.

“Getting paid to do something I love is just awesome,” KB said.

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Sophomores to perform in community theatre

Sophomores Margaret Gahagen and Tessa Holifield love the stage. They have both performed in multiple shows since their childhood, at Providence and in community theatre and are continuing that tradition this school year. This weekend and next, they will perform in Once upon a Mattress at Clarksville Little Theatre.

Both girls had previously performed at the local theatre at least once when they were younger and were eager to audition when they saw the casting call on Facebook – especially when they realized Mr. Ron Breedlove, musical theatre teacher, was the show’s music director.

Tessa plays the Nightingale of Samarkand, who sings a lullaby in an attempt to help the princess sleep. Margaret plays Lady Larken, a noblewoman who wishes to marry a knight of the kingdom against the wishes of the Queen.

As high school students in a community theatre production, the two are the youngest performers in the cast, but they said they liked getting to meet new actors from the area.

“I like that it’s people from all different parts of the community,” Margaret said. “It’s interacting with people we might not otherwise without that theatre setting.”

Both girls also had different summer theatre experiences. Tessa performed in Redline Performing Arts’ production of Hairspray at The Henry Clay in Louisville. She portrayed Prudy Pingleton, the controlling, uptight mother of the lead character, and enjoyed not only the acting experience but, like with her current show, meeting new people.

“It was a really diverse cast,” Tessa said. “It was fun to work with people of different backgrounds.”

Margaret had an internship with StageOne Family Theatre’s summer camp, working three one-week sessions teaching 4- and 5-year-olds. She said she really enjoyed working with that age group and teaching them the basics of theatre.

“Watching them grow in it (theatre) was really fun,” Margaret said.

Margaret and Tessa are now looking forward to their Providence productions. They have the lead roles in next month’s children’s show, Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook. They also are in the Musical Theatre class and plan to try out for the spring musical, Shrek.

For both girls, acting with their friends is one of their favorite parts of performing. But being on stage also has its allure.

“I love mainly how happy it makes me,” Tessa said. “Being on stage, being under the stage lights, being in costume and the joy all that brings me doesn’t compare with anything else.

Margaret agrees.

“I love how freeing it is to just be up on a stage and performing,” Margaret said. “I love how happy it makes me. It’s so cool how people can work together with just a script printed in a book and with just sheet music and then something completely magical can happen.”

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Footloose cast eager to perform

This weekend marks opening night of Footloose, the 2021 spring musical. The cast is thrilled to be able to perform before a live audience. And while seating is limited, tickets are available to the public for $15 each. Masks are required, and social distancing will be maintained between households. Tickets are sold out for this Friday’s and Saturday’s performances, and this Sunday’s is close to full, but seats are available at the other three shows next weekend. Please support the Providence Players and order your tickets today by calling (812) 945-2538 ext. 301.
 
Available show times are Sunday, April 11 at 2 p.m. (few seats remain); Friday, April 16 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, April 17 at 7 p.m.; and Sunday, April 18 at 2 p.m.
 
The cast is confident that audiences will love this show, which is based on the 1984 film of the same name. 
 
“Audiences will enjoy a lot of aspects of this show because there is something for everyone,” said senior Anna Isler, who plays Vi Shaw, the pastor’s wife. “From energetic dance numbers to emotional ballads, Footloose has heart and soul.”
 
Senior Victor Beeler, who plays the lead role of Ren, adds that audiences will enjoy the comedy in the show as “how much nostalgia from the original film is captured in this show, not only with the dialogue, but with the songs as well. With hits like ‘Holding out for a Hero,’ ‘Almost Paradise,’ and of course ‘Footloose,’ there is something that everyone will recognize!”
 
Sophomore Maddie Beeler, who is Victor’s sister and plays his mom, Ethel, said that audiences will also enjoy the authentic costuming, the sets, the live orchestra, and most of all the cast.
 
“Everyone in this show is so much fun to be around and act with,” Maddie said. “I’m so excited for everyone who’s coming to see it!”
 
Sophomore Ella Unruh, who plays Ren’s love interest, Ariel, said the show is what everyone needs right now.
 
“I believe audiences are going to love how truly fun this play is,” Ella said. “During these hard times, I feel like people are craving dancing, letting loose, and enjoying the good in life. We can see the journey of how an uptight town turns into a fun and bright place throughout this play, and I hope the audience feels free to enjoy themselves and truly cut loose as well!”
 
The cast has worked hard to learn or improve their dancing skills to perfect the multiple, fast-paced dance numbers in the show, which will also entertain audiences. Senior Aaron Burke, who plays Willard, Ren’s best friend, had to learn how to dance in cowboy boots. Victor and Ella Unruh each spent hours practicing on their own outside of rehearsal to get the footwork down. 
 
“My character Ariel expresses herself a lot through dancing,” Ella said. “I actually don’t have any experience dancing, so taking on this role meant a lot of at-home practice! In all honesty, my friends have been an amazing help through this, and I’ve learned a lot in this play.”
 
Victor said his minimal dance experience was limited to what he had done in previous spring shows, so he too spent hours at home in his “basement learning these dance moves, but over time I finally learned them, and they’re some of the most fun dance combos I’ve ever done!”
 
Read on for a Q&A with some of the cast:
 
Anna Isler, senior, Vi Shaw — the pastor’s wife; House of Courage
College Plans: Ball State University, psychology
 
Question: What do you like about your role in general?
Anna Isler: I like my role as Vi because she is so different than any character I’ve played before. She is conflicted and complex, but most importantly, she has a big heart. 
 
Q: What do like about playing an older character?
AI: Playing an older character has been really interesting. I don’t know what it’s like to be a mom or experience inner turmoil the way that Vi does, so Mrs. Holifield and Mr. Breedlove have helped me break down her character, and I hope it translates well on stage. 
 
Q: What is most challenging about your role?
AI: The most challenging part of my role is getting the older mannerisms down as well as portraying the meaning behind the words I’m given. Sis gets intense. 
 
Q: What are you looking forward to this spring musical?
AI: I’m looking forward to acting alongside Kieran Kelly (who plays Reverend Shaw) because I think we have a nice dynamic. We are good friends outside of theatre, so it’s been really great to dig deep with him. He’s super talented, and I couldn’t ask for a better stage husband.  
 
Years in PHS Theatre: 4
Shows: Jungle Book (monkey), The Enchanted Bookshop (Heidi), Jesus Christ Superstar (ensemble), Honk! The Musical (Dot), Freaky Friday (teen ensemble), Little Shop of Horrors (urchin), and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (wife). 
Other performing arts: Providence Singers four years, Popcorn Players two years, voice lessons 2018-2021.
 
 
Ella Unruh, sophomore, Ariel Shaw – the pastor’s daughter; House of Humility
 
Question: What do you like about your role in general?
Ella Unruh: This year I was given the opportunity to portray a character unlike any other character I’ve ever played, and I love diversifying and experimenting with different roles. As Ariel is a protagonist, she is a very rebellious character with a lot of inner conflict, and it’s been amazing to get to know her character and be able to play her.
 
Q: What is most challenging about your role?
EU: One of the most challenging parts about Ariel would have to be that she has two very different sides to her. To modern society, she’s seen as the perfect daughter of the very notorious pastor of the town; but to her friends, she’s rebellious, fun, risk-taking, and not so picture perfect. She has a lot of pain from her past that drives her motives and inner conflict that I’ve been working to reciprocate.
 
Q: This is your first lead role in spring musical but not your first being lead on stage. What are you looking forward to the most?
EU: Most of all, I’m looking forward to the ability to perform again. I’m used to always performing in some shape or form, and with the pandemic, it’s limited a lot of that. I truly thrive on the Providence stage, it’s where I found my love for theater, and it’s where I hope to continue to be. This play is not just fun, but it also has a very touching story behind it. I can’t wait for others to enjoy a live play again, and I can’t wait for all the smiles and laughs I’ll get to see and hear from the audience!
 
Q: What do you enjoy about being part of a large cast as opposed to being the lead or solo singer?
EU: Being a part of a large cast opposed to a lead singer or soloist is a true blessing. Our cast is so truly talented, and I personally learn so much from my fellow castmates. I think we all learn from each other. The blessing to be a part of a team to put together a show this amazing is something very special and something I’ll never take for granted.
 
Years in PHS Theatre: 5 (including Deanery shows)
Other performing arts: Performed with her band, The Roux, at the New Albany and Jeffersonville River stages; writes and records original music
 
Victor Beeler, senior, Ren McCormack – new kid in town; House of Courage, Boys Golf
 
Question: What do you like about your role?
Victor Beeler: What I love about my role is that I get to play an optimistic kid who just wants to get out and express himself through dance. I get to play every emotion too! I get to be lighthearted and funny, but I also get to play out some of the more serious moments and explore Ren’s personal moments.
 
Q: What is it like having your sister play your mother?
VB: Having my sister play my mom is the funniest thing ever! The dynamic we have is very similar to what the characters have in the show. We’re both very sarcastic with each other and have lots of love. Being able to perform alongside with her and to see her shine on that stage is absolutely amazing! She’s the best sister I could’ve asked for, and I’m so glad I get to be right next to her for my senior year!
 
Q: What is most challenging about your role?
VB: I would say the most challenging thing for me is having to mix singing and dancing together. Normally it’s fairly easy for me, but this year has been a challenge for sure! Ren has lots of high notes that take a lot of air, and he also has a lot of dancing, which also requires a lot of air, so it took a while for me to find the balance, but I finally found it, and it’s so much fun!
 
Q: What are you looking forward to this spring musical?
VB: What I’m looking forward to this spring musical is to just perform. With last year’s run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat being cut short, it’s so refreshing finally getting to get back on stage to sing and dance. Just the fact that we are able to perform this year is fantastic!
 
Q: What is your favorite PHS Theatre memory?
VB: My favorite PHS Theatre memory has got to be opening nights in the guys’ dressing room! Anytime a new person joins the cast, we have an initiation ceremony with all of us just being super goofy. And every year all the guys submit songs, and we compile them all into a crazy playlist that we play to sing along to.
 
Providence Shows: Jesus Christ Superstar (apostle), Honk! (Ugly), Freaky Friday (Parker), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey II), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Joseph), All Shook Up (Dance Chorus), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (Roger), and Walk Two Moons (Mr. Winterbottom)
 
 
Madeline Beeler, sophomore, Ethel McCormack – Ren’s mom; House of Courage, Volleyball
 
Question: What do you like about your role in general?
Maddie Beeler: Ethel is Ren’s mom, who is very independent. She is a single mother who is trying to take care of her son and give him a good life after her husband has just left her. I love this role because I’m very independent myself. Ethel has to make decisions not only for her son but for herself, and she’s very sure on the outside but contemplates whether it was the right decision she made on the inside. This role is so much fun, and I love getting to play her and trying to express that to the audience. 
 
Q: What has it been like playing the role of mom to your older brother?
MB: Playing my older brother’s mother has been so much fun. I always joke around that I kind of act like his mom already because I boss him around a little bit. Ethel and Ren’s relationship is very similar to mine and Victor’s. Ethel and Ren are very sarcastic to each other, but they know when to be serious and be there for each other. Victor and I are the same; we are always so sarcastic with each other but he’s there for me and I’m there for him. He’s the best big brother ever. It’s also very cool that I get to play this role with him his senior year. I love him so much, and I’m very excited for everyone to see it. 
 
Q: What is most challenging about your role?
MB: The most challenging thing about playing Ethel is trying to be an adult. I am not an adult and don’t know what it’s like to be a mother yet. There’s a lot of details I need to have down to come off as an adult to the audience, such as my posture and my tone of voice. For the most part, it’s simple and things I know I need to do, but it’s about getting them down and displaying that to the audience that’s challenging. 
 
Q: This is your first lead role in spring musical. What are you looking forward to the most?
MB: What I’m looking forward to the most is getting to perform and have a name role. This past year has been crazy for everyone because of Covid, and I’m very happy we get to perform at all this year. Having a name role is a lot of responsibility because knowing your songs and your lines is a lot of work, not only mentally but physically. So I’m very excited for all my work to pay off. 
 
Q: What is your favorite PHS theatre memory? 
MB: My favorite PHS memory so far because I’m just a sophomore and have many memories to make has been getting ready for shows in the girls’ dressing room. We’re always playing music and getting hyped up. Then also going out to eat with everyone after the show and just celebrating another good night. I got to do all those for the first time last year during Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
 
Years in Providence Theatre: 2
Shows: James and the Giant Peach (Narrator), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (ensemble), A Hairy Tale (Narrator) 
 
 
Kieran Kelly, senior, Reverend Shaw; House of Integrity, Swim Team, Quick Recall
 
Question: What do you like about your role in general? 
Kieran Kelly: I really like how fun the character is to play. He’s super complex and has all these sides to him that he switches between throughout the play. It’s been a lot of fun exploring his character more in depth.
 
Q: What do like about playing the antagonist? 
KK: I like how conflicted Shaw is. While Shaw is an antagonist, he’s not a bad person. He’s just someone who’s been through a lot. I really enjoy getting to play him as someone who believes he’s doing the right thing.
 
Q: What is most challenging about your role? 
KK: The most challenging part about my role is my interactions with other characters, especially Ariel and Vi. Shaw has a very complicated relationship with his daughter and wife, and it can be hard to figure out how to best convey all the nuances in them. 
 
Q: What are you looking forward to this spring musical?
KK: I’m looking forward to being able to do one last musical with the whole cast and crew, especially the seniors. Also, I’m looking forward to eating out after the shows!
 
Years in PHS Theatre: 4
 
 
Aaron Burke, senior, Willard Hewitt – Ren’s best friend; House of Loyalty senior executive delegate, Student Ambassador, Hiking Club, Pro-Life Club
College plans: Purdue University, meteorology/atmospheric science
 
Question: Is the character you play similar or the opposite of your personality? How does that help you portray him on stage?
Aaron Burke: My character, Willard, has a personality that is very different from my own. Willard is a country boy who is very naïve to the realities of the world beyond Bomont. He is also very defensive and isn’t afraid to fight anyone who he sees as a threat. Our personalities are similar in a way because deep down he has a lot of common sense and he is a huge momma’s boy. 
 
Q: What is most challenging about your role?
AB: The most challenging part about my role has been learning how to dance in cowboy boots and also learning how to portray Willard as the character he is. He has many layers that I have had the joy of exploring over the past few months. 
 
Q: What are you looking forward to this spring musical?
AB: In this performance, audiences will enjoy a show with an immense amount of energy and movement. They will witness a story that revolves around the values of love, friendship, family, and community. Our cast has worked hard to make the show as elaborate and alive as possible. 
 
Q: What do you like about your role in general?
AB: My favorite part about my role is Willard’s country flare. I have learned to use a country accent throughout the show, and I am always wearing boots and a cowboy hat. 
 
Q: What is your favorite PHS Theatre memory?
AB: My favorite PHS memory was during Walk Two Moons when Mara Holifield printed out too many pictures of me that I had taken on her phone the night before and scattered them throughout the auditorium, backstage, and the dressing rooms. It seemed like everywhere I turned there was a picture of me. I learned not to take pictures on other people’s phones.
 
Years in PHS Theatre: 4  
Shows: Jungle Book (monkey), The Enchanted Bookshop (Tom Sawyer), Jesus Christ Superstar (apostle), Freaky Friday (Wells’s dad, Savannah’s friend, ensemble), The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (Police Officer, Mr. Thompson), Little Shop of Horrors (Skip Snip), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Ruben) and Walk Two Moons (Gramps)
 
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