MARSHALL - After months of preparation, the junior high students at Marshall Area Christian School are ready to present their version of "The Hidden Meadow" today and Friday.
Director Russ Oglesby, MACS principal and junior high teacher, originally wrote the story for a camp.
"Normally, the kids do a short story unit every other year because we have our seventh- and eighth-grade together," Oglesby said. "But this year, we had to find a story somewhere and make it into a play. They took an original story, and then they did the script."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Junior high students from Marshall Area Christian School rehearse a scene Tuesday in preparation for their upcoming dinner theater performance today and Friday. Cole Balsley (portraying Savay), right, looks over a special map with directions to “the hidden meadow,” while Theresa Hanson (Zsa Zsa) tries to explain that her family is rich enough to buy any trip.
In November, after being assigned to writing teams, the 15 junior high students got busy.
"First we had to outline the story and say the first act is from here to here," Oglesby said. "Two teams did each act. We selected the best one, then took things out of the other one and edited it into the final product. They could all really become involved the writing process."
During the Christmas break, Oglesby and volunteer Ted Stamp, who has a writing degree from Southwest Minnesota State University, made the final changes.
Stamp called the script "a synthesis of the best."
After the holidays, students went through an audition process. While seven of them were chosen to portray characters, eight students were directed to assist the play in other ways, including set preparation, lights and advertising.
"It's been amazing," Oglesby said. "This group has been really quick to learn their lines, so that left a lot of free time to do acting."
The story uses a backpacking expedition as an allegory for following Christ to show that life's ups and downs can transform them.
"I like how there are so many characters and how it tells the story of Christ," said Claire Boersma, who portrays one of the backpackers searching for the hidden meadow. "It basically tells how Jesus died on the cross for our sins, even though we're not very good."
At various times, the backpackers are tempted with misguidance, such as promises of riches, but are repeatedly asked for their trust.
"I think the writing went really well," Boersma said. "The biggest challenge, I think, is that we're all really fast talkers, so we have to go slow and loud."
Another challenge was the set.
"It's quite the challenge, to design a set for an outdoor hiking trip," Stamp said. "I didn't know how they'd pull it off because it's hard to visualize."
Oglesby believes that this year's set was probably the most challenging MACS has ever done. He credits the assistance of Mike Hulsizer and the Marshall Area Stage Company for its success.
"We probably wouldn't have been able to have this much, like the rocks and the backdrop, without the help of MASC," Oglesby said. "It just really adds the special touches. One of the things I see, within this community there is such a willingness of different groups to share with other groups as they're working together. I'm excited about the set."
Boersma echoed that thought.
"I really like the set," she said. "It's super-cool. It takes up the entire gym, though."
Students Aaron Moat and Jacob Samuelson have worked with the set. Jacob Graupmann is in charge of making the thunder and changing the ropes on the bridge. Amy Harrison helped with the programs, while Daniel Grassmann helped with the writing. Adam Hart and Andrew Moat are in charge of the lighting. Many of them, including Kautia Carlson-Snook, are understudies for the play.
"I help out with whatever I can," Carlson-Snook said. "I help on the set and with props. My dad and I brought in some tarps and we donated some zip ties. I also help with new set changes."
The junior high students will also help serve the meal at the dinner theater, which begins at 6 p.m. today and Friday, followed by the play at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for the play can be purchased at the door.
Oglesby said that the money that is made goes to three different places.
"The seventh and eighth grade support a Compassion Child in Kenya and have been for the last seven to eight years," he said. "Part of it goes to that."
Proceeds are also used to fund summer missions trips for any student who has attended MACS, up until their graduation.
"They can write a request for money from this fund," Oglesby said. "And finally, we do a thing with all the schools in the district where we Feed the Hungry. We take part of this money along for our offering for that."