Cassandra Nelson of Conger moves a desk on the stage for dress rehearsal on Tuesday. Nelson is part of the stage crew for this weekend’s production of “Oklahoma!” by the Alden-Conger High School drama department. -- Michelle Haacke/Albert Lea Tribune

Archived Story

Sisters working behind the scenes

Published 9:59am Thursday, March 10, 2011

CONGER — Being on the stage crew of a high school musical production is a lot of work.

Just ask sisters Ariana Larson and Cassandra Nelson of Conger. They are two of about six people who are on the stage crew for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” that will be performed by the Alden-Conger drama department this weekend.

In addition to keeping track of a variety of props for the production, the girls have to pay close attention to timing, moving the props to the right place at the right times between scenes under low lighting, and making sure the curtain comes down at exactly the correct minute.

“Standing and waiting is the hardest part,” said Larson. “There’s nowhere to put chairs so you can’t sit down, and you can’t talk.”

Nelson joked that the most difficult part for her is working with her sister.

“It’s fun when she’s not nagging at me,” she giggled. “But you do have to pay a lot of attention. You don’t want to close the curtain on someone.”

These girls, and the entire cast and crew of “Oklahoma!” began preparing for their roles in January.

“Tryouts for the cast were in December, so the kids could look over the scripts during Christmas break,” said Ada Theusch, the play’s director and music teacher.

Theusch recruited Larson first for the stage crew. Larson, in turn, recruited Nelson and then a few other friends joined them. Stage and other behind-the-scenes crew members were also tapped before Christmas break, so everyone could begin their work once school resumed.

Theusch said about 60 students in all make up the cast and crew, with about 30 to 40 of those taking the spotlight on stage. Other crew members are focusing on costumes, hair and makeup, and even turning the pages for the piano players during the performance.

Community members from Conger, Alden and other surrounding communities have donated props to be used, from old-time washboards to quilts, a rocking chair, old tools and crocks.

“We even got a real carriage from a mule farmer in Kiester,” Theusch said. “It’s amazing how the entire community has come together to help with this.”

This is Theusch’s third time directing the drama students in their annual musicals. Last spring, they performed “South Pacific.” She said she chose “Oklahoma!” this time around because it seemed to fit the talent of her students.

“There’s a lot of flexibility with it,” she said. “A good balance of serious and romantic along with the fun, raucous scenes.”

While Larson and Nelson have had a lot of fun getting ready for the show, they’ll be glad when the production has wrapped. In addition to getting ready for this weekend’s musical, Larson also participated in the band and choir contests this week in Maple River and had a band concert Tuesday night.

“It’s been pretty hectic and very time-consuming, but overall, it’s been worth it,” Larson said.

Tickets, please
What: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” musical performance by the Alden-Conger drama department
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Alden-Conger School gymnasium
Admission: $6 for adults and $4 for students