When the cast of “Aladdin” takes the stage on Sept. 6 and 7, they will have something the last play at Pratt High School didn’t have. They will have several rehearsals with the entire cast before the play opens.
When the PHS production of “Little Mermaid” went up in the fall of 2013, the first time the entire cast had been together was on opening night, said PHS Play Director Rose Beilman.
“That was hard on the cast and directors,” Beilman said.
It was hard to know how the show would turn out and hard to put the pieces together.
The reason the cast couldn’t all get together is that many of the cast members are involved in other activities that are going on at the same time and they can’t be at two places at the same time.
After the play was over, Beilman got together with music director Brandon Wade and talked about ways to get more rehearsal time together with the entire cast.
That’s when Wade came up with an idea he had seen work before in similar circumstances. They would hold rehearsals during the summer and present the play at the start of the fall semester. That would put the play on Sept. 6 and 7, just a week and a day after school starts on Aug. 28. It would get the play over early in the year and avoid all the fall conflicts.
Beilman liked the idea but had to find out if the students would go for a rehearsal schedule that would cut into their summer vacation.
She thought that students would be getting bored by the time August rolled around so it seemed like a perfect time to get the cast together and rehearse a show. She polled students back in March what they thought about the idea and what conflicts they would have.
Coaches start two-a-days in August and Math Jump Start is also in August. Beilman didn’t want to have to schedule around other activities if possible because that would defeat the whole purpose of a summer rehearsal schedule.
The response from the students was very positive and auditions were held in May followed by a play read-through and then two very intense rehearsals in June. After that, the students were responsible for learning their music and dialogue until the intense rehearsal schedule started in late July.
The students responded with enthusiasm and the summer rehearsal schedule has been a success so far.
“From my perspective, the rehearsals have been very productive,” Beilman said.
Wade agrees. The students have been amazing. They show up to rehearsal with high energy and work hard. Vocally, it’s going to be a great show, he said.
Katie Buhler who plays “Iago” (a talking parrot) in the show, said the summer rehearsal has really been good for the cast.
It sure beat having to do all their usual fall activities and the play at the same time. Students were tired from all the activities.
The students have other activities in the summer but they are more fun and not a stressful as the fall schedule. Plus she will have more time in the fall to do her homework.
Buhler admitted, the summer rehearsal did cut into family vacations but the cast has gotten a lot more done than in the fall. And there is a longer rehearsal period in the fall. But Buhler is more excited about getting to tap dance in the show then any issues a summer rehearsal schedule might have. It makes her feel more into the show when she gets to dance.
Zach Stone who has the title role of “Aladdin” and has to be at most of the rehearsals, said with the new rehearsal schedule he wouldn’t have to worry about schoolwork or senior activities. He also works a summer job but it’s in the morning so it hasn’t conflicted with play rehearsals.
It also means more rehearsals with everyone in the cast and that was a goal for summer rehearsals.
The summer rehearsals tend to be longer than rehearsals in the fall but other than that, he likes not having to do home work and study for tests during rehearsal.
“I can focus on sports and scholars bowl and other activities,” Stone said. “It’s a good deal, most definitely.”
For lighting designer, Brandon Riney, who graduated in 2013 but is designing and running lights for the play, the schedule worked out well. He was able to finish his electrics internship with Music Theatre of Wichita just days before he needed to start work on lighting the play plus it won’t be a conflict with any of his classes at Pratt Community College.
Finding enough time to set lights will be a bit of an issue other than that it has worked out well for him.
One element Beilman had to consider when moving rehearsals was finding students willing to help construct the sets for the show. Fortunately for Beilman, her students enjoy the elements of building a set for the show. Whether it was for painting, building, or setting and running lights, the students liked handling that part of the process. Beilman’s husband and other adults also pitched in to help build sets.
“The kids have been wonderful, the parents have been wonderful,” Beilman said.
Having the show over the first weekend in September will be a great benefit for Wade who is also the middle school football coach and an assistant coach for the varsity basketball team.
“I think I’ll like it. Instead of going 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for three months, its just for a couple of weeks,” Wade said.
Once the show is over, Beilman will do an informal survey to see if the students like the summer schedule and would do it again. But their response so far has been very positive.