Spring play will leave audience wondering whodunit

Published 8:59 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Southwest students take the stage in murder mystery spoof

After a series of more classic children’s stories, Southwest Middle School is mixing it up with this year’s spring play choice.

“This one kind of keeps you like, looking, like, ‘What’s gonna happen?’” seventh-grader Morgan Christian said. “‘Why is this person dead? What’s going on?’”

At 7 p.m. Friday, the group will perform “And Then There Was One,” a spoof of Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None.”

“I wanted something different,” director and Southwest Middle School teacher Laura Kuisle said.

Christie’s novel is her favorite.

“I love murder mysteries,” Kuisle said. “It’s more fun to have them goof off and see who actually did it.”

In “And Then There Was One,” 10 people are invited to a mansion on a small island. Unaware of who the host is, they nonetheless arrive, only to be greeted by a mysterious recording and then the first body. The guests begin to disappear one by one, as do the chocolate soldiers on the mantelpiece. The characters rush to solve the murder.

Kuisle said the more serious nature of the script means the students have to get into a more serious mood to perform — but it also means they like to milk the comedic moments, she said.

Timothy Chalmers, who plays Matthew Charisma, said the cast has done well memorizing lines and hitting cues. They’re continuing to work on getting their facial expressions just right.

The cast of “And Then There Was One” tries to puzzle through the second of the play’s two mysteries during Tuesday’s dress rehearsal. – Sarah Kocher/Albert Lea Tribune

“They’re really good,” said Riley Johnston, an eighth-grader who volunteered to help out and became student director. “They put a lot of effort into it, and I think they enjoy being here.”

They’re going the extra mile, too.

“My students have gotten seriously into character,” Kuisle said.

Inspector Horatio Miles, played by Gavin Hanke, is supposed to be a stealthy character, so he has been sneaking into Kuisle’s classroom and, on one occasion, hid under her desk.

Hanke is a part of a cast of 10 on-stage actors and several student crew members, who in turn are a part of controlling what Christian said has been one of the challenges of the production: lights and sound. Over the course of the play, there are gunshots, an explosion, some musical tracks, a doorbell and a clock chime. The timing has to be just right.

Kuisle said the crew is working with two sound systems, which run simultaneously, and lights in two different spots.

“It’s a huge piece of communication between the backstage crew,” she said. “I’m putting a lot of dependence on them.”

This year’s performance also sets itself apart in that it has a single set, which remains stationary throughout the play.

Seventh-grader Kaitlyn Klocke said being a part of the play has been an enjoyable experience, and that the audience sees that.

“I hope they see, like, how much we’ve enjoyed being in this and how much it actually seems real,” Klocke said.

Kuisle said she hopes the audience sees how much has gone into the show — “just to see how hard the kids have worked and the details the kids have put into not only their characters, but the way they’re acting. Just those small things, not the overall pictures — just the little glances between characters, little facial expressions that they have to have on their face when they’re trying to give away a clue or not give away a clue.”

Cast list

Clayhorn: Morgan Aanes

Mimms: Morgan Christian

Dr. Albert Prince: Joseph Yoon

Presley York: Joshua Behrends

Emily Plain: Joey Maiden

Heather Starlett: Hannah Willner

Matthew Charisma: Timothy Chalmers

Delores Biggs: Jaylee Waters

Horatio Miles: Gavin Hanke

Margaret La Rue: Kaitlyn Klocke

Mysterious Voice: Isaac Shea

Crew members

Director: Laura Kuisle

Set Designer/ Assistant Director: Alissa Sauer

Student Director: Riley Johnston                                                                                                    

Lights: Jonathan Sanchez and Keygan Lundak

Sound: Ava Cunningham

Backstage: Erika Saindon

Set Builders: Laura Kuisle, Dale Kuisle, Alissa Sauer

Southwest Middle School students run through a Tuesday dress rehearsal of “And Then There Was One,” a spoof off of an Agatha Christie novel. The murder mystery is a change of pace from previous choices, students and director said. – Sarah Kocher/Albert Lea Tribune

About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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