‘They know it’s hard work’

Published 9:40 am Friday, January 29, 2010

Sibley Elementary School students are getting a taste of musical theater this week.

Seventy-three students in grades three through six have been working since Tuesday with Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre to prepare a unique production of “Sleeping Beauty.” Their work will culminate in two performances: one at 7 p.m. today and another at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Southwest’s Little Theatre. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students.

The Sibley parent organization, S.H.A.R.E., has been sponsoring an artist in residency with Prairie Fire for about 10 years, said third-grade teacher Lorna Berg.

Auditions were held on Tuesday (they were originally set for Monday, but school was let out early) and then the main characters went right into reading their lines. Students were expected to have their lines memorized by Thursday.

Many of those cast have been in previous Prairie Fire productions.

“They know it’s hard work, but they know what they need to do,” Berg said.

The experience has also paid off in many ways, the teacher said. “Sixty percent of the students in the fall musical (at Albert Lea High School) attended Sibley,” she said.

Walking by the Little Theatre Wednesday, Southwest eighth-graders Kylie Nelson and Larissa Hacker reminisced about being in a Prairie Fire show when they were at Sibley.

“It was very fun,” Nelson said. “I learned to be myself, and be more outgoing.”

“It was really fun,” Hacker added.

“Sleeping Beauty” is Prairie Fire’s newest show. It was written by the two directors who worked with Sibley students in past years, Dan Stock and Megan Pence. It is an action-packed romp, set on a movie set in the 1930s. Everything that can go wrong, does! 

“It’s not a straight fairy tale,” Berg said. “Prairie Fire shows always have a twist.”

Sara Kabrud, a fourth-grader, was in last year’s production and knew she wanted to do it again.

“I like to be in theater,” she said. “I like to watch the audience and put on a good show for them.”

She plays Julia, a chorus girl and a diva. “I like to be a diva sometimes,” Kabrud said.

Amy Sanderson, a sixth-grader, is in her third year with Prairie Fire. She plays Gwen, another chorus girl. “Every year is so much fun,” she said. “Everybody has a good time.”

Sara Rasmussen, another sixth-grader cast as a diva girl, Becki, has been taking part in Prairie Fire shows since third grade. “I like to act and the directors are so fun — and funny,” she said. “It’s going to be a funny show. It’s a fairy tale, but mixed up, Prairie Fire way.”

Fifth-grader Alana Skarstad has also been taking part since third grade. She plays diva girl Anna. “It’s a great time with my friends,” she said.

Conner Kleinschrodt, a sixth-grader, has also been taking part every year since third grade. He plays The Sound Guy. “I get to use a bunch of props and make noises off stage. I play with sock puppets and get bells to ring,” he said.

Sam Ehrhardt, a fifth-grader, plays Eugene, the main evil guy in the movie, but a nerd in the play. “I like getting to act in front of a big group,” he said. “The directors are both really fun and nice.”

Fifth-grader Ethan Lunning is in his third year with Prairie Fire. “Personally, I come back every day from rehearsals and my face shows what a fun experience this is,” said Lunning, who plays The Sheep Wrangler. He’s supposed to be keeping track of the sheep, but they get lost and cause trouble, he said.

Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre professionals Gavin Nachtigall and Ana Hagedorn are co-directing the production. Nachtigall plays Hypnotist Zen R. Franklib and Hagedorn plays Coco Love, the Drama Mama.

Nachtigall comes from Minneapolis, where he recently appeared in “Two Gentlemen from Verona” at the Guthrie. Originally from Rapid City, S.D., he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in communication and theater from South Dakota State University. He first toured with Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre last summer.

Hagedorn comes from Columbia, Mo., where she recently earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in theater arts from Stephens College. She was born and raised in Eau Claire, Wis.. She first toured for Prairie Fire last fall as the Wicked Witch of the West in Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz.”