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.