The secrets beyond the garden

Hannah Preston, Staff Writer

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The spring musical is often a highly-anticipated event for Jacksonville High School, and whether the purpose is the extra credit from your English teacher or your inner drama enthusiast dying to be released, it is always something to enjoy.

This year, the production of choice was The Secret Garden, the story of Mary Lennox, a young girl who moves in with her widowed uncle and cousin only to find her aunt’s lost garden, and this past weekend, the team of twenty-six students showed off the final result.

Like any other theater production, a lot of hard work has gone into it.  Set building, costume design, and memorizing many, many lines are only the beginning.  “We’ve been rehearsing since late February,” says junior Katie Davidsmeyer, who played Colin Craven, the bratty, sickly cousin of Mary who is convinced that he is going to die at an early age.

Overall, the show was a complete success.  Straying from the usual pattern of unique plotlines and even more unique characters, the cast and crew strived for a wider appeal with a well-known story.  “This show was a great change in conventional high school theater,” says junior Megan Heitbrink, who was cast as the deceased mother to Colin.

The Secret Garden seemed to bring out emotions that the actors were challenged to bring to life, much like the romance between Archibald Craven, played by sophomore Cameron Hume, and his wife, played by Heitbrink.  “My favorite memory was trying with all my might to love Cameron,” she jokes.

Other characters like Colin, played by Davidsmeyer, are plagued by an intense sense of hopelessness and loneliness and are not an easy task to portray.  “It was weird to wrap my head around the fact that I was playing a ten-year-old boy in the way that Colin would say things or how he would act.  This is the biggest role that I’ve ever had, and I realized that you don’t have to be nervous when you’re on stage as long as you know your stuff.  The accent was pretty difficult, especially when I’d yell lines because I’d forget that I was supposed to be British.”

“It was a performance by many talented students who have spent every night to make this production wonderful,” says junior Genna Fanning, the level-headed yet imaginative girl who accompanies Mary on her journey through childhood.  “The show was a really cool experience because there are two worlds and stories happening at the same time.  Both past and present play a huge role in the story.”

Outside of this particular performance, the cast and crew has had lots of experience with theater and other performing arts here at Jacksonville High School and beyond.  There was only one senior in the whole cast, which proves the true talent and potential that all these young performers have.  It was quite exciting to see such a complex and emotional plotline come alive on the stage when in years past, cast members have struggled to relay even the simplest of stories.  “It’s not your typical upbeat, feel-good show, but we have strong characters and strong singers.  Megan Heitbrink, Emma Bible, Genna Fanning, Joey Lawson, Cameron Hume, Joe Hymes, and Katie Davidsmeyer all did an amazing job,” says director Christine Smith.  “I think it is fun to see students become a character.  They are not a high school student; they are someone else entirely, and it’s interesting to see them take on a different persona.”

“You’re treated with amazing voices from the whole cast, great music from out pianist, and an…interesting story,” jokes sophomore Cameron Hume.  “I think people have lost the ideals of the arts and how important they really are.  If you don’t expose yourself to it, you’ll miss out on some of the best parts of life.”

Smith was delighted with the final product when they reached the final days of rehearsal.  “The kids who had parts on the stage have been amazing and worked really hard, but it’s the students like Tyler Reeves and Kelcey Fanning who worked set, John Paul Killiam on lights, and Caleb Holaway playing keyboards who were really the glue of the show.  Also, parents who helped me on the set and costumes have really put it together.”

To most of the young thespians, a chance to be on stage is one that you cannot pass up, and they form a strong bond with the magnetic atmosphere of an audience.  “I just really enjoy being in shows.  Throwing yourself into a scene and being there as your character is one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.  All of the rehearsal pays off and you forget all about the audience.  It was really rewarding,” claims Davidsmeyer.  “We’ve been working really hard, and I’ve had lots of fun.”

Fanning agrees.  “I love the feelings when you perform and bring joy to those who watch.”

“Performing and acting is something I hope stays a part of me forever,” says Hume.

Jacksonville is lucky to have the group of outstanding voices, and it’s clear that the theater program in the area is still going strong.  “I look forward to being able to work with these kids many times,” says Smith.  “Hard work made this show terrific.”

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