Midsummer musical in winter

Published 8:56 am Friday, January 9, 2009

For some 70 Sibley Elementary School students, all the world’s a stage this week.

The students have teamed up with two professional actors to present Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre’s original musical adaptation of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Performances are at 7 p.m. today and at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Southwest Middle School Little Theatre. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for students. Tickets are available at the door.

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According to Lorna Berg, Sibley third-grade teacher, the performances are a culmination of a weeklong artist residency. The residency is sponsored by the Sibley parents organization and a Perpich Arts Grant.

Berg said Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre has been doing these residencies at Sibley for at least 10 years. She said she sees a lot of value in the group experience students have through it.

“They come together to accomplish something,” she said.

Students in grades three through six are participating. They started Monday and practice for more than four hours each night. “They got the script and were told to have their parts memorized by the next night,” Berg said.

Other students are helping with lights and sound, she said.

It’s a unique experience for students to get to work with professional actors, Berg said.

Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre professionals Dan Stock and Megan Pence are co-directing the production. Stock plays the role of Nick Bottom, the colorful head of the acting troupe, and Pence plays Puck, the mischievous sprite.

Stock, a native of Cannon Falls, earned his bachelor of fine arts degree in theater. He first toured with Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre in 2004 as Geppetto and Tempesto in “Pinocchio.” He’s also been in the theater’s productions of “Robin Hood,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cinderella,” “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast.” In 2007, Stock wrote the music for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“This is the third time Dan has been to Albert Lea,” Berg said.

Pence, the associate director of Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre, earned her bachelor of fine arts degree in theater education from Bradley University. She previously worked as assistant stage director for Alphabet Soup Productions. Through Prairie Fire, she has worked on “Robin Hood,” “Tom Sawyer,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Cinderella,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Peter Pan” and “Beauty and the Beast.”

This is the second time Pence has been in Albert Lea, Berg said.

The play was adapted by Prairie Fire managing editor Ben Ratkowski and designed by executive director Deborah Nelson Pick. The show is a joyful romp of mistaken identity and pranks, all played out during a midsummer’s eve.

This is Prairie Fire’s newest and most challenging show, Berg said.