The Ballard Talisman

Thoroughly dedicated

Thespians, tech and orchestra prepare for the winter musical

Jaya Flanary and Meagen Tajalle, Features Editor and Staff Reporter

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Juniors Camaira Metz (Millie) and Jasper Coté (Jimmy) rehearse every day after school as late as 6 p.m. They focus on memorizing choreography, practicing lines and performing songs. They’ve been rehearsing since December; the show opens March 5 and closes March 14, with six shows total.

Aiden Sheckler
Juniors Camaira Metz (Millie) and Jasper Coté (Jimmy) rehearse every day after school as late as 6 p.m. They focus on memorizing choreography, practicing lines and performing songs. They’ve been rehearsing since December; the show opens March 5 and closes March 14, with six shows total.

The theater program’s winter musical, “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” will be opening March 5. The musical follows Millie Dillmount who moves to New York in 1922 to find herself a husband. The school’s production will star juniors Jasper Coté as Jimmy and Camaira Metz as Millie.

Auditions were held in early December. “Everyone was very up there, I think it would’ve been pretty hard to figure out who was going to be who,” Coté said.

He and Metz were in agreement about their peers. “I got a callback for Millie,” Metz said. “Everyone is so talented in the theater and so I really didn’t know what to expect.”

Camaira Metz

Camaira Metz

For some actors, preparation started before audition dates had even been set. Both Coté and Metz took tap lessons for seven weeks starting the second week of September just to learn the audition dance.

Metz also took a tap class outside of school to prepare for auditions. “It’s a lot of work but it’s rewarding when you can get something down and it looks good, and sounds good too,” she said.

Junior Camaira Metz (Millie) takes notes on choreography, lyrics and lines.  These notes in the margins of her script incorporate diagrams of blocking. As the lead, Metz has an abundance of actions to memorize. She usually takes notes for every production she’s in because they help her during rehearsal and when she is practicing her part on her own. The blocking notes are required and sometimes checked by their choreographer, Eia Waltzer. They rehearse for about a month and a half on book and then a month and a half off.

Jaya Flanary
Junior Camaira Metz (Millie) takes notes on choreography, lyrics and lines. These notes in the margins of her script incorporate diagrams of blocking. As the lead, Metz has an abundance of actions to memorize. She usually takes notes for every production she’s in because they help her during rehearsal and when she is practicing her part on her own. The blocking notes are required and sometimes checked by their choreographer, Eia Waltzer. They rehearse for about a month and a half on book and then a month and a half off.

Coté isn’t involved in most of the ensemble numbers, but he has kept busy even when he’s not practicing his moves. When not dancing, actors help the tech crew with building the set, practice lines or rehearse songs with the pianist.

Both actors are excited about their characters, but for different reasons. “In some ways I think she’s a lot like me. I mean personality wise, she’s kind of quirky and I feel like I can relate to her in a lot of ways,” Metz said.

Coté was involved in “The Sound of Music” and “Urinetown,” and “The Musical Comedy Murders of 1940” was his first play at the school. He prefers plays to musicals since plays are grounded more in reality.

“Musicals are very intimidating to me,” he said. “But you have to go out of your comfort level sometimes. And it’s really fun to over exaggerate sometimes and sing and dance.”

Though musicals can be over-the-top, character study and research is still necessary. Metz’s research has revolved around New York in the 1920s and her character being new to the city.

Coté believes Metz deserved the lead due to her dedication and talent. The two actors working opposite of each other play love interests. They’ve worked together in the past, but never this closely. “We’re having fun with it,” Metz said. “We crack jokes about it and stuff, we can laugh about it.”

The cast rehearses every weekday after school, focusing their preparation on blocking and dancing, sometimes until 6:30. “Once we keep doing it it’ll just get there,” Metz said.

Theatre Tech

How’s this year?

AB: It’s not as big.

LM: Which is nice.

How have you prepared?

AB: Both of us helped out with the audition process. We’ve been building the set since we came back from winter break.

LM: I think the biggest thing is keeping all the actors calm.

AB: We’re the wall between the actors and Riley.

Is it difficult to keep the actors calm?

LM: I think a lot of it is the actors are very stressed out, because this is a very big production dancing wise.

AB: It’s a lot of actor intensity for the show. It’s a lot of ensemble intensity so they have to be in sync with each other.

Who keeps you guys calm?

LM: My therapist.

AB: Caffeine. Each other.

How is everything going overall?

AB: We’ve been in worse shape. At this rate we’ll be okay.

LM: I think tech wise we’ll be okay… I can never tell.

What do you guys do when you’re in panic mode?

AB: Stay here very, very late.

LM: And then also we remind ourselves that it’s not professional theater.

AB: It’s not professional theater. We’re high schoolers. And compromises have to be made.

Do you guys also take part in making the sets?

AB: I’m pretty sure if Lily and I didn’t work here, the set wouldn’t be built. There’s nights where we stay here until 9:00-9:30 at night.

How do you get around what the cast is doing?

AB: Often during rehearsal we’re taking blocking notes or filming the dances so they can repeat them later on. We have Tech Theatre and all the new kids for the semester building the set. Lily and I are basically good cop bad cop.

Who’s who?

AB: We kind of switch, depending on what day it is.

How does this class play into work time?

AB: I’ve taken it seven semesters in a row now, which works really well because I still get credit for it. You get to work on the musical, and then also the kids that have never set foot in a theater before are like, ‘Holy crap I helped with that,’ when they come and see it in March. That’s always my favorite.

Is the dedication worth it?

Both: Oh yes.

Why?

AB: You make the bestest of friends here. I don’t know how I would survive high school…

LM: Without the tight knit group.

AB: All of my best friends are now in the theater at this point. This is my niche.

LM: Also I think it’s good too because you feel like you’re accomplished at building something. You created something.

AB: It’s true, you created something that actually means something, more than “Hey look, I got an A.”

LM: Exactly.

How does it feel to take it down when you’re done?

Both: It feels amazing.

AB: Oh my God I love coming in Monday after closing. We all come in in our crappiest clothes and we’re like…

Both: Let’s do this.

(From left to right) Graduate Elijah Lancey (technical director), senior Amanda Balter (stage manager) and junior Lily Munro (assistant stage manager) cut wood in Theater Tech, a class Balter has taken for seven semesters in a row. Tech is responsible for building the productions’ sets.

Cassin Stacy
(From left to right) Graduate Elijah Lancey (technical director), senior Amanda Balter (stage manager) and junior Lily Munro (assistant stage manager) cut wood in Theater Tech, a class Balter has taken for seven semesters in a row. Tech is responsible for building the productions’ sets.

Meet the director

Shawn Riley, language arts teacher, has been working at Ballard for five years. In addition to teaching he directs the school plays and musicals. This is his 16th production at Ballard.

Riley stays after school and comes in on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for work calls. Junior Jasper Coté and his cast members agree that Riley is extremely dedicated.

“He gets stuff done, he knows how to put on a good show,” Coté said. “He turns down other commitments for the betterment of this play which is very appreciated.”

Although Riley is a large aspect of the theater department, it’s up to the students to practice choreography, lines and songs. He expects everyone involved to dedicate themselves as well.

According to senior Amanda Balter (stage manager), as opening night gets closer, Riley’s thoughts include “you guys need to step up your game because I stepped up my game a month ago.”

Balter and junior Lily Munro (assistant stage manager) are what they call the “wall” between Riley and the actors because they help with communication.

“I think it’s mainly he does his thing and we do our thing, and then if we need to ask him something, we do,” Munro said. Although they don’t work with him all of the time, they believe they have a very respected relationship with the director.

“I love the man and he’s changed my life,” Balter said.

Pit orchestra

The music of “Thoroughly Modern Millie” is heavily influenced by the time period, being set in the Jazz Age of the 1920s.

In the past, productions have mostly had a classical musical style, so heavy jazz has had an impact on the pit orchestra. “All the eighth notes are swung, basically,” senior Sophie Feathers, clarinet player, said. “There’s only small sections where it’s not.”

Pit orchestra prepares for productions months in advance, rehearsing twice a week after school. During the show, they are located on stage behind the set pictured above.

Cassin Stacy
Pit orchestra prepares for productions months in advance, rehearsing twice a week after school. During the show, they are located on stage behind the set pictured above.

Pit meets twice a week from from 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. and then extends their practice to 6 p.m. closer to opening night. “We just practice on our own and occasionally they’ll send singers over to us,” Feathers said.

As opening night approaches, the orchestra is expected to know their music because they’re on stage playing as they run through the whole show.

In addition to rehearsals, Feathers practices clarinet at home. She focuses on her solos because they are prominent and clearly heard. “He [Music Director Michael James] gives us a CD of the music, so what I do is I often listen for my part in there and sometimes I play along with it to figure out how it’s supposed to sound,” she said.

Feathers believes the orchestra is prepared for the show despite the amount of work they have had.

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