If you go into the “dungeon” of the Newton High School Center for Performance, you will see what, at first, looks like an onslaught of graffiti covering the walls.
Once you read the words on the walls, however, you realize that they all represent the names and years of previous productions put on by the NHS drama department.
This year, “Fiddler on the Roof” will be added to the massive collection of colorful names on the walls. The play is being directed by Melinda Worthington and features 60 kids between the cast and crew.
The male lead for the play is Tim Stammyer, who summarizes the play for those who are unfamiliar with it:
“I am Tevye, I am married to Golde,” Stammyer said. “Basically, I have to go through the play and figure out how to keep a balance between tradition and the new ideals that my daughters are trying to convey. In the midst of all of this, we’re in about 1905 in what is modern-day Ukraine, and we are dealing with the Czar trying to kick us all out of our land.”
The kids truly do it all in this production. Some act, some play in the orchestra, some are in the technical crew and just about all of them have helped build the set.
“We had a large group of kids that were not only on crew, but the kids that were performing that went down and certain teams designed each house and each building that you see on the set, so they learned some set-building skills,” Worthington said.
The set itself is a thing of beauty. Local artist Marvin Campbell designed it and personally taught the kids how to build and paint the set. It is made out of cardboard as well as lumber donated from Spahn & Rose.
It was designed and painted in a way to make the setting more “whimsical.”
In addition to the set-building the kids learned a lot of other things.
“You have had teams of kids that have been working with the props, lights and sound,” Worthington said. “We also have a run crew – that’s the crew that runs the show when I’m not back there, so they learn the timing of the curtains and moving the set pieces off and on. They, of course, have to learn their songs vocally, choreography, and they had to learn their lines and all their blocking. Blocking is all their movement on stage that is not to music.”
Two of the kids that helped put this together were the Schwarz siblings. CJ works the lights and Samantha is the assistant director, the stage manager and runs the technical crew. She feels that she learned a lot on this project.
“We built sets, so I learned how to cut boxes,” Samantha said. “I had never used a box cutter before this. And we had to work with power tools, which was really fun. I learned a lot of organizational skills, there was a lot of people to organize and how to lead people, because there was a lot of people that needed instruction.”
CJ has turned this learning experience with the drama club into a way to earn income even while still in high school.
“Oh man it’s been really fun,” CJ said on working with the tech crew. “I used to be an actor, then I decided I want to try tech. Then it clicked and I have been working and getting paid. You can work anything. I’ve worked one dance recital and made over $200.”
Besides the additional skills that students are gaining by helping put on this production, some have used this as an opportunity to branch out. Anna Lothe is playing the lead role of Golde and this is her first production.
“I am a mother of five daughters in a Jewish family and we are very poor,” Lothe said. “We are struggling to get by, as the traditions in our village change and there is unrest in (our country) where we live.”
Even though she was a rookie before this play, she has a theory on why she got the lead. “Being consistent, showing up for practice, working hard, and being a senior,” Lothe said.
Another young lady is branching out even further and is doing the opposite of what early productions of Shakespearean plays did in the past. She is playing a man.
“I am the fiddler,” Micaela Sciarrotta said. “I stand on the roof and I pretend to play. I get to wear a beard that is exciting. I wasn’t originally cast as the Fiddler, but we needed someone and I went for it.”
Sciarrotta has noticed the differences between playing male and female characters.
“A lot of facial expressions,” said Sciarrotta. “And I don’t know what to do with my hands, because I can’t put them on my hips. It’s pretty easy to do know that I am used to it.”
With an big cast, funding issues, and a avalanche of snow day’s preventing rehearsals, this production should still be in its infancy. But thanks to the time and efforts of the kids and various community volunteers, a charitable donation from Spahn & Rose and the Newton Community Theatre this play is set to go.
The first run is Friday March 1. at the Newton High School auditorium at 7 p.m. and the second showing is Saturday March 2. also at 7 p.m. Tickets cost are $5 for general admission and $10 for reserved seating. Admission is free to Red Card holders.
Samantha Schwarz summed up what will be her most rewarding moment and perhaps the same for the other kids and volunteers.
“I think it will be after tomorrow night after the show when everyone else applauds, because I know I put in all the hard work to make it happen,” Schwarz said.
Staff Writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641)-792-3121 Ext. 426 or firstname.lastname@example.org