When PHS junior Alexis Daniels learned she was cast as JoJo in “Seussical,” she immediately texted her family with the announcement: “News! News! News! We have another JoJo in the family!”
Alexis is the second from her family to play the role of the imaginative 11-year-old boy who longs to be valued and loved for himself, and finds a friend in Horton. She follows her older sister, Lacey Daniels, who was cast as JoJo in the first “Seussical” to be produced at PHS in 2007.
Greg Shaw, their director, says the sisters both have a strong sense of “the allusion of the first time” on stage.
“The entire story is taking place through the imagination of a young child, so the appearance this is the first time JoJo has had these ideas is very important,” he says. “It must seem original. Both Alexis and Lacey allow themselves to experience their environment and other characters as though they have zero idea where things will end up.”
But when Alexis auditioned for “Seussical,” she had her eye on the role of JoJo and actually had rehearsed the audition cut quite a bit. She didn’t consult Lacey, nor did Lacey offer advice.
“It’s caused me to figure everything out on my own and make it original,” Alexis says.
This is the second time in a year that Alexis has played the part of a young boy; in last fall’s “Addams Family” she was Pugsley, the ornery little brother of Wednesday Addams. But this role demands a much lighter approach, with curiosity and wonder.
“I did have quite an imagination when I was younger, so I’m trying to connect with that, but also remember that I’m a boy in this show and not little Alexis,” she says.
Lacey, who got her start in theatre as a child in church musicals and elementary school plays, portrayed JoJo as a sophomore.
Like Alexis, the previous fall she also had played the part of an 11-year-old boy, in a production at Pittsburg State. She went on to play Anne in “Anne Frank” and Sandy in “Grease” her senior year.
Lacey earned a degree in English and creative writing at the University of Kansas, where theatre continued to be a part of her life; she served as stage manager for several plays.
But “Seussical” will always occupy a special place in her heart.
“It was the first time we had athletes in productions at PHS, and the first time people began to take theatre seriously,” she says. “It was pretty amazing to see this huge football player, who played Horton, sitting on a plaster tree singing his heart out. ‘Seussical’ is when barriers really started breaking down. I think it was the show that opened it up to be cool for everyone.”
“There’s such a culture there that’s so unlike anything else, unlike any other group of people you spend time around.”
Lacey won't be able to make it to the 10-year reunion for former "Seussical" cast members and cast members of other PHS musicals during Shaw's tenure, but she plans to be in the audience Thursday night.
"I know she'll be terrific," she says of Alexis.
Thanks to the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce for allowing us to host the weekly Chamber coffee at PHS to share previews of "Seussical" and tell them about our performing arts program!
Here, a few sneak peeks of our promotional performances:
Today was a special day in the life of PHS junior Meghan Hess, who aspires to be a professional screenwriter or playwright. At the Kansas Thespian Festival, her play, "Tender is the Tell-Tale Heart: A Brief Odyssey of Love," was brought to life in a "world premier."
Meghan, who wrote the one-act in an independent study with PHS theatre teacher Greg Shaw, submitted it to the Kansas Thespian Playworks contest and it was chosen as the top entry in the state. Yesterday during the festival, auditions were held and a cast selected.
Today, the cast workshopped it and performed it to a sizable audience of fellow festival attendees. Story summary: F. Scott Fitzgerald (played by Ryan Leibold of Free State High School), Edgar Allen Poe (played by Austin Hancock of Field Kinley High School), and Homer (played by Chris Pendry of Free State High School), come to life as a figment of the imagination of a young poet (played by Katy Brown of PHS) attempting to craft the perfect poem for her true love (played by Alex Perkins of PHS).
Following a Standing O, Meghan fielded questions and suggestions for improving it before taking it to the International Thespian Festival this summer.
This year's annual Breakfast With Santa tradition by PHS Theatre, sponsored by Mount Carmel Foundation, was special: It featured an original script written by junior Meghan Hess, an aspiring playwright.
Directed by senior Coral VanBecelaere, who was assisted by Alexis Daniels, the show was presented free this morning to several hundred children and parents as a Christmas gift to the community.
The plot: Santa is ill and can’t deliver presents on Christmas Eve and his brother, Nickolai arrives to take over. But Mrs. Claus remains skeptical, as do four loyal elves. When they take it upon themselves to investigate, they uncover a shocking secret: Nickolai is planning on keeping the toys for himself. Mrs. Claus, who works hard to manage just about every other aspect of life at the North Pole, believes she can take Santa's place to deliver the toys.
Santa initially scoffs at the idea, but with the elves encouragement, Mrs. Claus stands firm, gets the toys delivered on her own, and helps Nickolai see the error of his ways. In the end, Santa and the elves realize she was capable all along and pamper Mrs. Claus with breakfast in bed for a job well done.
Following the show, the audience was treated to breakfast themselves, including muffins, fruit, cereal, milk and juice, all provided by Mount Carmel Foundation. They had a chance to greet the elves, write letters to Santa, make crafts, and sit on Santa's lap for photos.
On the last day of school, 14 members of the PHS Drama Club dressed as superheroes and joined parent Michael Dalton at George Nettels to welcome elementary students!
Dalton has been dressing as Disney, Marvel, and DC characters each Friday morning since the school year began, and contacted PHS Theatre teacher Greg Shaw for assistance with a mega-superhero welcome.
Theatre students were happy to help!
If you’ve ever wanted to eat an ogre finger or “slime” covered cookie, now’s your chance! Members of the PHS Friends of Performing Arts — we usually call ourselves “Drama Mamas,” have been creating and organizing concessions for “Shrek, The Musical,” and they promise to be swamptastic!
Several parents started the Friends group in 2008 in response to the growing programs in theatre and vocal music. The purpose was to provide support for the daily needs of the programs as students spent many hours rehearsing, performing, and competing, and to connect the community to these great programs.
Our fundraising efforts include membership to PHS Friends, selling t-shirts, and selling concessions each spring at the all-school musical. Our first concession stand, held during the musical “Grease,” was dubbed “The Burger Palace” and featured Frenchie's French Cookies and Rydell H2O. Since that time, Friends have themed snacks to each show. Dipped pretzel sticks appeared with the production of “Footloose.” For the performance of “HONK,” they were called "Cat Tails."
And this year for “Shrek,” what else would you expect but ogre fingers?! We’ll also be selling Shrek-themed fruit chew snacks (We think we bought up every box between here and Wichita!), gum drop buttons, and “slime” covered cookies at every show.
We aim for low prices to make the treats affordable for children, so no items cost more than $1 and some cost only 25 or 50 cents. We also are offering a non-edible souvenir for this show: Ogre ears! The head-band style “ears” will cost $5. Tickets are $10, $8, and $5. Come join us in the swamp!
The show opens Wednesday and runs through Saturday. Tickets can be purchased at www.memorialauditorium.org or by calling 620-231-7827.
— Friends of PHS Performing Arts