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I Remember Mama preview

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Rehearsals for the school play, which will be running April 27 to 29, have just begun. This year the production is a play entitled I Remember Mama. Written in 1944 by John Van Druten, it tells the story of the Hansons, a Norwegian immigrant family living in San Francisco, CA. The story is told from the perspective of one of the family’s four children, Katrin. She recounts her family’s efforts to achieve the American dream. Mama’s trials and victories in raising her children, with some help from Papa and her Uncle Chris.

The play is based on the 1934 semi-autobiographical novel Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes. In 1948 the story was adapted again into a fairly successful film that was nominated for five academy awards. Many years later in 1979, acclaimed composer Richard Rodger adapted the original play, which he and Oscar Hammerstein II had produced on Broadway 35 years earlier, into a musical of the same name. It was Rogers’ last work prior to his death in December of that year.

Students turned out in large numbers to audition for I Remember Mama. Although it is an ensemble show with lots of characters, the number of students auditioning was so large that 2/3rds of them would have to be turned away. So the director, Mr. Keith Cassidy made the decision to cast understudies in some of the key speaking roles. By doing this he was able to expand the opportunities and give more people a chance to participate. “I can say that, for the first time in my 30-year teaching/directing career, 100 percent of the actors who read for the show were strong enough to be cast. There wasn’t a weak audition in the bunch,” Mr. Cassidy said. “Unfortunately, I still was not able to use many very talented actors who gave tremendous readings. I really hope to work with them all on future projects.”

Since the show was cast, the actors have had a very intensive rehearsal process. They are rehearsing almost every day after school because they only have about two months to rehearse for a very complex play. As with most plays, scheduling the rehearsals has not been easy. “This show is unique in that we have cast understudies to the main roles, so there is an extra degree of complication in how we build rehearsals so that both the main cast and the understudy cast has time to rehearse,” stage manager, senior Mia Shaker said.

It is not just the cast though that is hard at work. The tech team has been making plans for all the behind-the-scenes elements. The set is perhaps the most time consuming and artistically challenging technical element. Tech-head, senior Erin Ingram is already working on a plan that involves a box set, which is a box with three walls and an open wall, used to create the illusion of an interior room on the stage, for the main location. Movable wagons and furniture downstage, to the left or right of the kitchen will be used to portray other locations. “We have ideas, but the specific designs are still in progress,” Ingram said. “Still, I am excited to create another box set for sure. When you are part of run crew, they are especially fun, because you have lots of places to hide when moving on and off set pieces.”

All of the students involved are excited to be a part of the Theater Department. This play is several students’ first theatrical experience at the school, but for others, this will be their last show at the school. These students will soon be graduating from the school and moving on to do other plays at the colleges they will attend or in their communities. Most of them have been involved with the school shows for their whole high school career. For them, this rehearsal process and the performances will be a very emotional experience. “Doing shows here helped me to meet people who shared the same interests as me. I had so much fun in the first show I did, that I kept coming back,” senior Maddy Holladay, who is playing a prominent character for her seventh and last performance at the school, said. “Theater is a big time commitment. Students rehearse for months in order to put on a production that they are proud of. Anyone who comes and sees these productions is witnessing the result of diligence and sacrifices made by people dedicated to the show’s success.”

Right now, there are many separate pieces of this play that are just beginning to take shape. Everyone that is a part of this play is working very hard to make sure that they are proud of the product of all their work. This is a large ensemble cast, but that does not make any of the actors’ jobs easier. Mr. Cassidy and the technical teams are also taking a lot of time out of their schedules to make sure this show is successful. They hope that they will give the audience a greater understanding and appreciation of the importance of family. “Most of all, I Remember Mama is a joyous celebration of family life,” Mr. Cassidy said. “Though the play focuses on a Norwegian family from 1910, the relationships between siblings, parents, aunts and uncles are ones we can all relate to. No matter where you come from, family is family.”

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I Remember Mama preview