By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, COKATO, MN Dassel-Cokato High School (DCHS) theater program is presenting its second annual spring performance this weekend, which will feature pirates, queens, colors, thieves, and more in two separate stories.
A one act show written by DCHS student Sara Cronk will begin each performance, followed by a full length play written by DC alumnus and director James Moen.
The one act and play will be performed Saturday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 23 at 1:30 and 6:30 p.m.
There will be a ten-minute intermission between each show.
General admission tickets are now available in the DC Activities Office, open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. They will also be available at the door one hour before each performance.
Adult tickets cost $6; youth/student tickets $4. One ticket gets attendees into both plays.
Cronk: “The Queen of the Forest”
Still being a junior at DCHS, Cronk has been given the unique opportunity to have a show she wrote performed for the DC community prior to the school’s spring show.
Even though her one act was only recently approved, conversations of producing a student-written play started last spring at the suggestion of high school director James Moen.
Motivated at the possibility, Cronk spent pieces of her summer writing “The Queen of the Forest.”
When it came time to discuss the spring play, Cronk revised it to meet Moen’s guidelines and submitted it to him for review.
Shortly afterwards, Cronk was scheduling auditions for her show.
“The Queen of the Forest” is about 20 minutes long, and tells the story of two queens: Catherine (played by Natalie Dahlin), the queen of the realm; and Gwyneth (Erikka Langemo), the queen of the thieves who live in the forest.
“Basically, it’s [about] which one of them rules the forest, actually,” said Cronk, who is performing in the show (as the minstrel) and also directing it entirely on her own.
“It was my job to cast it, come up with blocking, set, props, costumes, lights, all of that stuff, and run rehearsals,” she said.
While the opportunity to direct is “such an interesting experience,” it is not something Cronk is completely unfamiliar with, having done similar projects with her sister, Caroline (who is also performing in the show), since the age of 5.
“It’s still new to be working with that many people, though,” Cronk added. “There’s a lot more little details that go into it that you don’t necessarily think about when you’re just one of the actors.”
While directing a larger- scaled show than the ones she did at home has brought on new challenges, such as blocking and figuring out tech, Cronk said she has been pleasantly surprised by the way the actors make the roles their own.
“Because I wrote this show, I certainly had ideas for the characters as I was writing them, and then to see the way that the actors meet that and exceed it is really cool to see.”
For those coming to see the show, Cronk said she mainly wants the audience to enjoy themselves.
“Its not necessarily a deep show; there’s not much meaning. You’re obviously left with the question of which one of them is the queen of the forest, but other than that, it’s meant to be a fun thing for both the audience and the actors.”
Moen: “The Color of Everything”
In preparation for the spring play performances, Moen stated that he believes “The Color of Everything” is the strongest play he has written yet.
The story follows David Wilder (played by Caroline Cronk), a young boy who likes to think outside-the-box and is described as being a little different from his peers.
The audience reveals this as David recants a question his teacher posed the class: if love were a color, what would it be?
While many of the students chose to paint their responses using reds and pinks, David selected every color he could come up with, “because he believes we associate colors with emotions,” explained Moen, “and that love is made up of many things; not just the reds, but the yucky colors, too.”
In addition to his theory on colors and emotions, David also has a favorite book, “The Treasure Hunt,” which his mother (Maddie Schut) reads to him every night.
When his mother passes away, David is given the book, along with a note his mother left him, indicating that he could find her within the pages of the story.
As he opens the familiar tale again, however, he is transported into the story as the main character “Billy the Adventurous.”
Hoping he will find his mother at the end of the story, David/Billy decides to journey through the book’s plotline, accompanied by Pierre the Parrot (Daniel “Bud” Schenk).
Together, they encounter characters David already knows, such as Pete the Pirate, Caleb the Cowboy, and Sid the Spaceman, who are all played by sophomore Gannon Miller.
Meanwhile, David’s father, Bill (Gavin Dalbec) is seeing a grief counselor (Heather White) to try to make sense of his wife’s death and what his son is also going through.
“Throughout the show, we don’t know if David’s actually going on this magical adventure, or if it’s his way of coping with the loss of his mother,” Moen stated. “As much as the story is about David’s journey, the show is also just as much about Bill Wilder, his father, trying to move past [his wife’s death], or move forward.”
Moen’s play is estimated to run about an hour and a half, and will take place following a 10-minute intermission after Cronk’s one-act is performed.
Since many of the more experienced theater students are busy with other commitments, this spring show has given several of the younger or newer students their first leading roles.
“It’s been great seeing how these students who I haven’t had a chance to work with [much] how they work with each other, and how well they’re doing,” said Moen. “I’m really impressed; I’m impressed with all of them.”
He continued by particularly mentioning the work of Schenk, Caroline Cronk, and White, all of whom had their parts memorized very quickly and have “really risen to the occasion.”
Being a family-friendly show, filled with symbolism and colorful lights and costumes, Moen believes the story has something for everyone.
“I just hope that people really enjoy this show, and appreciate the hard work that the kids have put in,” said Moen. “The whole show, it’s about imagination, and I think it’s a lot of fun. There’s a lot of comedic bits as well as serious plots, because life isn’t all comedy, and it’s hopefully not all dramatic and serious. It’s little bits, of everything which goes back to the name of the show . . . which is in reference to the painting that David does, which once again is how we, as humans, associate colors with feelings and such, and how we’re made up of multiple colors, one could say.”