Students put final touches on ‘Charlotte’s Web’
The Breckenridge High School Drama Department makes its 2017-2018 debut Wednesday as it performs “Charlotte’s Web” for area elementary school students, then hosts pubic performances at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and at 3 p.m. Sunday.
The cast of “Charlotte’s Web” put the final touches on the production during Monday night’s dress rehearsal, which director Callie Stenson said signified how far they have come.
“Half of these kids have never been on stage before,” Stenson said. “I came in with a department with 12 people and I have 36 people in our production. It’s amazing. They’re used to doing 40-minute shows and here we are doing a 90-minute show and looking like they have been doing it forever.”
While many learned of E.B. White’s most famous work through the 1973 animated musical, the BHS production takes a much different approach. With the show’s three-person chorus guiding the audience from scene to scene, minimalist sets and makeup, moody lighting and sound effects and makeup, Stenson said the BHS take on “Charlotte’s Web” is engaging and with performers jutting out into the crowd to deliver their lines just feet from the audience.
“The three-person chorus was written into the show, but he planned for them to be on stage the whole time,” Stenson said. “I think this is more important for my kids to get involved with the audience. This is for the kids. With my chorus getting up and in their faces getting them excited about what they’re talking about. The easiest way to do that is breaking the fourth wall.”
Stenson said the minimalist design came by necessity. She originally had a much different idea. After seeing it is was not feasible, she scrapped it. While coming up with ideas she noticed how a wood pallets simulate the inside of an old barn, the primary setting, when stacked side by side.
“I thought, pallets, a wall of pallets and we just started building,” Stinson said. “Inside a barn, it’s very cluttered. People just throw things inside a barn, it’s cluttered. That’s what I did, just cluttered and cluttered until I thought it was enough. Turner Seed donated a lot of seed sacks and everything. They really supported what we’re doing and made this possible.”
Samantha Heatley plays the titular role of Charlotte, a spider who can write messages with her webs in order to save the life of her pig friend Wilber, played by first-time stage performer Savannah Burns. Burns juggled being one of the lead roles and being on the basketball team, often jumping from one practice to the next as was the case Monday night.
“I’m in athletics and the physical stuff was not as hard as it was getting comfortable speaking in front of everybody and being able to find my place here in this home of a theater,” Burns said. “… The hardest part was memorizing all of the (basketball) plays and my lines and get all of the communication sorted out.”
Heatley said her character was difficult to flesh out because of its complexity. Throughout the play Charlotte gives all she can to help her friends, even as her health failed. Heatley hopes the play inspires audiences to make the most of what they have in life, even if it means putting the dreams of others ahead of their own.
“She’s selfless. Her qualities are hard to get down,” Heatley said. “Wilbur is her everything at this point. She is trying to save his life and putting him before everything … You want to look back on your life and view it as something amazing and try to look back on those memories. It’s the golden rule, treat others the way you want to be treated. That is how Charlotte treats Wilbur.”