Under the Sea

The Appleton North Theatre Department’s magnificent run of the Little Mermaid offered an excellent opportunity to showcase what happens under the sea of a live theatre performance.

The deep waters there churned with enthusiasm, creativity, talent and an unbelievably generous commitment of time.  That’s where all of the ideas that sprang from the foam of director Ron Parker’s frenetic imagination came to life.

“I’d like to portray the sea characters as puppets,” he said and, just like that, Mary Abraham and Catherine McKenzie, two alumni parent volunteers set to work designing and then sewing the most amazing collection of theatre puppets this side of Avenue Q.

“And then, the curtains will open and a large wooden ship will appear,” he said as Pete Abraham and Tony Tennessen, also alumni parent volunteers, licked their chops. Shepherding and educating a team of students, they built an enormous and still surprisingly agile sea worthy vessel.

Theatre mom Melissa Ptacek spent long, long days in the green room sewing beautiful, intricate costumes for a cast of more than 70 actors, many of whom played multiple characters. Mr. Parker likes to double cast roles, which maximizes both student opportunity and costume sewing challenges. Melissa coordinated a team of volunteer sewers including mothers, grandmothers and generous community members.

Concession coordinators and volunteers, Shelly Tesch and Wendy Peterson, together with a crew of crafters, handmade many of the items they sold. Midway through their record setting run, they ran out of the wands they had designed. So, they ordered more seashells and hosted another crafting party to make sure their concession stand had plenty to offer for the second weekend of the run. They packaged delicate items in hand-stamped mermaid boxes.

The program listed 61 volunteers and many others just stepped in to help during the run. They helped with box office, concessions, publicity, set building, sewing, strike, rehearsal meals and so much more. The volunteers did it to support their kids, to enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded, generous people, and because it is thrilling to play even a small role in the production of a high quality show.

If you ever have the opportunity to volunteer for a high school theatre production, we encourage you to dive in. You’ll find a diverse group of hard-working, generous people who will be happy to make you part of their world.

The following images are all courtesy of my talented friend Catherine McKenzie. Do youself a favor and check out her website at http://www.mckenzieimages.com.

Mary and Catherine
Mary and Catherine designed and then sewed all of these adorable puppets. They’re truly amazing (both the puppets and the puppetmasters).
Melissa at work
Melissa Ptacek, who son Jack played Eric, spent many, many hours in the green room sewing all of those beautiful costumes.
Cathy Stratton
Cathy Stratton and her husband Mike, whose son Sam played Grimsby, not only volunteered in the green room, the box office and with the rehearsal meals, but they also hosted the cast party, which, counting pit and crew, involved more than 100 students and their parents.
Tennessen Builders
Tony Tennessen and Pete Abraham built both confidence in the students they supervise, and incredibly cool sets.
Yasmeen is a student seamstress and all around amazing girl.
Ursula Flotsam and Jetsam
I mean, how cool do those Flotsam and Jetsam puppets look? And those amazing costumes? Of course, the student talent was off the charts.
Under the sea
This scene from “Under the Sea” is a perfect example of the creativity at work here. Check out the floating flounder on the left and the hot crustacean band on the right.
Sebastian the Crab
The Sebastian puppet/costume was perfect (as were the two actresses who split that role).
Both Scuttles were also spot on and how about those seagull costumes?
Oh that blowfish blow...
“And oh’ that blowfish blow!”
Flying Scuttle
This scene also embodies the creativity of this production. The blue waves are dancers, the ship looks sea worthy and Scuttle flies. So cool!
Ursula the seawitch
The student talent in this production was as deep as the ocean floor.
Curtain call
Curtain call. Great costumes, beautiful ship and the tech crew gets to take a bow.
Molly really enjoyed her role as student director of this, her 20th, Appleton North Theatre production.



3 thoughts on “Under the Sea

  1. I subscribed to your blog right after your family’s visit to central cambria. Like many from our community, my husband grew up as a packer Fan because of your dad. We were thrilled to go to the steelers/packer game in December 2014 … I think it’s the day you made the “our house” video. I love your blog; you are a wonderful writer and you project such a positive sense of family and community. Thanks for sharing your talent.

    Sent from Sue’s iPhone6


  2. Hello,
    What an amazing article! We’d love to quote you in an upcoming Appleton Area School District publication. Could you please reach out to me?

    Thanks in advance 🙂

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