Light and dark play an integral role in the Chester Area High School’s presentation of “Mythical Creatures and How to Approach Them.”
“It has moments that are scary, but it’s lighthearted in a lot of scenes and ridiculously goofy,” said Director Velda Schneider.
Selected with elementary school students in mind, the play includes enough scary for Halloween and enough fun to make the performance entertaining. The public is invited to attend at 5 p.m. on Sunday in the Chester school gymnasium.
The play follows Harmony and Peter as they enter a magical world to study magical creatures with the renowned Professor Sal A. Manderfin. Harmony, played by junior Mara Seeley, is enthusiastic about the opportunity.
Peter, played by senior Ashton Olivier, just wants to pass the class. Manderfin, played by senior Alex VanEgdom, may have written the book but doesn’t know as much as the students expect, leaving them to find their own solutions.
They are accompanied on their journey by Pippa the Fairy, portrayed by junior Rachel Lindholm, who doesn’t have much to say, but takes notes on their adventures. With each adventure, the level of danger escalates as does the level of humor.
On their journey, Harmony and Peter encounter:
• a hippogriff – Beaky McTalons played by junior Kennedy Foster;
• a unicorn who delights in making puns – Sparkles played by junior Serena Larson;
• mermaids played by sophomore Lauren Roberts, freshman Brooklyn Holman and eighth-grader Ainsley Breu;
• Virgil the cyclops – played by Connor Bates;
• Medusa, who talks to the snakes on her head – played by junior McKenzie Pitts;
• Gary the Griffin – played by junior Calvin Schmahl; and
• Linda the Dragon – played by senior Kate Kenton — who finds romance at the end.
Along the way, other creatures also cross their path: a vampire, a werewolf, a couple of sharks, a couple of zombies, a phoenix and Bob the Sasquatch making a mad dash through the scene. Many of these roles are played by actors who hold other parts.
“Some who didn’t have a lead, I tried to give them more,” Schneider indicated.
As a rule, fewer students get involved with the fall play than with the one-act or school musicals. However, she has found doing a fall play energizes theater students for the one-act competition, helping the school to maintain a winning streak which has stretched for more than a decade.
Among those playing multiple roles are Bates, who also steps in as a vampire and shark; Schmahl, who is also a vampire and shark; Kenton, who makes her first stage appearance as the werewolf; Foster and Roberts as zombies; and sophomore Skylar Siepka as the phoenix and sasquatch.
Lighting sets the scene as much as the simple set design, and that includes a use of total darkness to increase the surprise factor for special effects such as the fog machine. Schneider noted that many of the costumes were created by Cora Boysen.
“She’s done an amazing job and she’s a sophomore,” Schneider said.
Boysen is also the sound director for the play. Others involved behind the scenes are senior Macie Pitts, creative director and special effects technician; junior Tate Boysen, lighting director and special effects technician; sophomore Mykah Callies, lighting director; and sophomore Cadence Olivier, stage director and props manager.
Schneider is pleased with the dedication she has seen in students, who balance play rehearsal with other school activities and the fall harvest.
“This is just the most amazing bunch of kids,” she said. “They’re having fun with it, but they are very responsible and they’re 100% into what they’re doing.”
Schneider believes the play, which was written by Travis Greisler, will appeal to a wide audience.
“It’s got a little bit for everybody, like Disney,” she said.
Elementary students have already been indicating their excitement about the production.
“In the morning, when we’re practicing, there are elementary kids trying to come in and see it,” Schneider said. Their curiosity will finally be satisfied at 1:45 p.m. on Friday.