by Richard Lamb–Advance Editor
A unique play with an ensemble cast of high school students is set to take the stage this weekend at the Rogers City Theater. The Rogers City Community Theatre production of the play “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon” will be performed four times this week with shows Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
The play is about a traveling theatrical group, calling itself “the greatest troupe of actors the world has ever seen,” which has decided to perform all 209 stories of the Brothers Grimm, complete with their original and sometimes horrifying endings. And for an added degree of difficulty, they attempt to perform them as one enormous mega super story. That all makes for an interesting and entertaining mix.
According to director Julie Riddle, who directed the high school production of “The Miracle Worker” in February, what follows is pure silly fun.
“The actors race to present more than 40 different characters, telling their stories backwards as they investigate the origin of such classic figures as Rapunzel’s mother, Hansel and Gretel’s witch, and dwarf No. 2. The two harried narrators of the stories attempt to form order from the chaos while the audience leans back into helpless laughter,” she said.
The show is intended for all ages, and would make for a great family outing, Riddle said.
“The first time I started reading the script I was in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. I got more and more funny looks as I shook with repressed giggles and snorts of laughter. I knew right then, from the first few pages, that this was the show we had to do. It’s just so much fun,” Riddle said.
One of the challenges and delights of the play is that the stories are told in reverse, taking the audience for a trip through their imagination.
“The end of the story comes first, and then the play works progressively backward in time. I’ll be honest, I can’t keep them all straight in my head, all those stories and characters. I’m always forgetting which princess is which and can’t remember Snow White’s name to save my life. But when you’re watching the show, it doesn’t matter if you get a little lost. It still makes you giggle. And life is so much better when there’s something to giggle about,” the director said.
The cast is made up of 15 enthusiastic teenagers from Rogers City. It’s an ensemble cast, which means that there’s no main character or lead actors.
“Everyone is working hard throughout the show, both onstage and backstage. Each teen takes on up to five different roles, providing a great opportunity for them to grow as actors as they develop distinct personalities for their characters,” Riddle said.
Some of the cast has been acting for years, and for some this is the first time on stage. Riddle said she has been impressed by the courage of these young actors, especially those that have never done this before.
“Many adults are terrified of public speaking and wouldn’t be brave enough to try acting, but these neat young people are getting up there and giving it a shot. And they’re great,” she said.
The ensemble cast members are Daniel Bielas, Jacob Bruski, Bradley Heidemann, Hannah Hentkowski, Maddy Hincka, Abbey Mulka, Abby Muller, Ashley Nowicki, Abby Pflug, Emmalyn Riddle, Mallory Ryan, Aislinn Schalk, Fallon Schulte, Miranda Seiter and Makayla Tennant.
Noah Hanson will operate the soundboard and Hope Bidwell will run the lights for the production.
“Scheduling rehearsals around 15 busy high schoolers has been challenging, to say the least. They have so much responsibility in their lives – schoolwork, having jobs, taking care of siblings – that it was pretty much impossible to get everyone in one place at one time. Somewhere during the rehearsal period it struck me, it was a case of art imitating life. Our play is what we are living out, the chaos of putting lots of stories together into one and trying to make it all mesh together.
“That perfectly fits this enormous task of fitting 15 lives into one group effort, with the end result being a little crazy but beautiful because of all the pieces that are a part of it. That’s life for all of us, isn’t it? We’re all part of an enormous mega super story. We all contribute our piece, in our jobs, our community, our families…we are all part of the ongoing story of life that is lovely in the midst of chaos,” director Riddle said.
The play will make you laugh while never taking itself seriously, even while addressing some serious issues.
“We don’t want to be implying that those issues aren’t serious or important, because they are. But we are acknowledging that those things, the good things, the bad things, all of them, are a part of our stories. Each of us has a story that goes backward as well as forward, a story that’s a little bit chaotic, made up of bits and pieces that all come together to make us who we are. The moment you’re in right now? It’s just a piece of the story. There’s something comforting in that,” Riddle said.