Shawnee Mission North Theatre

Thespian Troupe #413

Teen composer wins “Reflections” art contest

Posted on: 11:13 pm, March 5, 2014, by

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Many school kids in our region participate every year in Reflections. That’s a program of the National PTA that encourages them to get involved in the arts. Students do projects in a variety of different creative areas, including music composition. This week’s FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever has soared in that as a district winner and as an outstanding musical performer and all-around student.

It’s an exhilarating experience watching talented, enthusiastic high school students pouring themselves into musical theater. And as the young singing, dancing actors rehearsed for this month’s production of Seussical at Shawnee Mission North High School, there was Hannah Patterson, front and center, preparing to star as The Cat in the Hat.

“Singing has always been a real joy,” said Hannah. “And also, God is a really important part of my life and I want to give glory to him. So I hope that (audiences) can be able to see that when I’m on stage or when I’m performing at a concert.”

“There are several ways (Hannah) works as a leader in our program and is effective,” said Shawnee Mission North High School Choral Director Juli O’Mealey. “One of those is that she works really, really hard. Everything she takes on she takes on with full force and follows through. But one of the biggest strengths she brings to our group is that she is so positive.”

There are many sides to Hannah’s special musical and performing talent. Smart, intuitive, versatile, Hannah even composes music, like the beautiful piece she created for piano and violin, with no real training. Hannah was on piano and her friend and fellow North High junior Annie Sinsel did the bow work as they played it for FOX 4 News on a recent visit to school.

“I started writing it my sophomore year around Christmas,” said Hannah. “And it started as something I just messed around with on the piano.”

As Hannah’s composition evolved and she got it out of her head down onto sheet music, it took on a new, very deep personal meaning. And it got a title — Mourning Sun. That’s “mourning” — with a “u”, as Hannah turned her song into a requiem for her grandfather who passed away.

“The minor shows how we’re sad he’s gone from this Earth, but the major celebrates his life and the time we got to spend with him before he died,” said Hannah.

“We cry every time we hear it,” said family friend Cori Hastings who is accompanist for Shawnee Mission North High choirs. Hastings majored in music composition in college and mentored Hannah in getting her music written down in actual note form.

“There is a way that the lines move in and out and really compliment one another,” said Hastings of Hannah’s work. “And she does a great job of integrating the violin with the piano part so that it’s two complete parts, not necessarily an accompaniment with a violin solo.”

“She’s taken the time to hone it and perfect it and let it morph into something different,” said O’Mealey. “And adding the violin was even better. Makes it into a tapestry. And that’s an advanced thing to do.”

Hannah made Mourning Sun so good that it won the Shawnee Mission Area Council of PTA Reflections art contest recently.

“It’s been such an amazing experience,” said Hannah. “I wasn’t expecting to be honored. But then, I was. I got really excited. It’s just been really cool and I feel very blessed.” And now there are high expectations for Hannah and Mourning Sun to do well at both the state and national levels of Reflections.

“I’m not a music expert but when I heard it, I felt it,” said Kim Benner, chair of the Shawnee Mission Area Council of PTA Reflections program. “And to me, that, that’s what art is, is when you feel it. And for (Hannah) to open her soul like that — truly amazing.”

And an amazing reflection of the Reflections program theme — Believe, Dream, Inspire.

Hannah’s caught the bug now and is continuing to compose music and has several works in progress. She’ll hear later this week about how well Mourning Sun does at the Kansas state Reflections art contest.

Meantime, Hannah and the rest of the cast and crew of Seussical will put on the musical at Shawnee Mission North High School March 7 and 8 at 7:00 p.m. with an additional 2:00 p.m. matinée on March 8.

http://fox4kc.com/2014/03/05/teen-composer-wins-reflections-art-contest/

Young Master of Make-Believe

Ready to Hit the Big Time of Puppetry

Posted on: 9:52 pm, July 18, 2012, by , updated on: 10:17pm, July 18, 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A recent high school graduate who makes creatures out of foam and metal and cloth and brings them to life is our FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever this week. Cedwan Hooks is a puppeteer and puppet maker who has been entertaining audiences in theaters and churches for 10 years already. And this young master of make-believe is hoping to follow in the footsteps of puppet masters like his idol, Muppets creator Jim Henson.

The acclaimed Paul Mesner Puppets are delighting audiences once again this summer at the company’s studio and theater in midtown Kansas City with productions like The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Cedwan Hooks works in the narrow confines behind the scenery, skillfully operating most of the puppets and doing many of the voices. Cedwan just graduated from high school but he is already a veteran puppeteer in the Mesner troupe. It’s his second summer working here and although Cedwan is young, the famous puppet master in charge trusts him completely.

“He’s very steady,” says Paul Mesner. “And he’s quite mature for his age. And he’s very dependable. But beyond that, he’s really talented. He also is very funny. A great sense of humor himself. And he’s very ambitious. He’s driven to want to do the very best to get it right. That’s what makes him a great person to work with.”

Cedwan’s been doing puppetry and making puppets of his own since he was in grade school after he was mesmerized by Barney the Dinosaur on TV.

“I stared at the screen forever trying to figure out how they did everything,” says Cedwan with a big laugh.

He’s fearlessly networked with master puppet makers getting them to share secrets of the craft.

“I’d say I had one foot in the costumed characters and one foot in puppetry,” says Cedwan.

And he sharpened his performing skills doing his own puppet ministry in churches for years starting as a child.

“That’s where I got my confidence,” says Cedwan. “That’s where I discovered a lot of the talents I had. Bringing the characters to life is my favorite part of the process. That’s what got me infatuated with it, especially the art of puppet building.”

Cedwan’s skill and creativity with puppets and costume characters were on display in a big way this past year when Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, KS put on the musical Little Shop of Horrors.

“It’s remarkable what he was able to accomplish with the puppets,” says North High theater instructor Ben Bartlett. Bartlett supervised the show and confidently turned over to Cedwan the mammoth job of designing, making and operating the flesh-eating alien plant puppets.

He created four of them from a small hand-held to the giant one that had him and two other performers that Cedwan trained in it — their legs moving as the stems. Cedwan did the mouth and voice and choreographed the movements.

“These puppets that he made were really characters that really came to life,” says Bartlett. “It’s really a testament to his talent and ability that he was able to do that.”

Little Shop of Horrors was a tour de force for Cedwan, winning him the Starlight Theatre Blue Star Award for outstanding technical achievement in high school musical theater for 2011/12. Now Cedwan wants to step into the big time of puppetry and costumed characters — TV shows, movies and theater, Disney theme parks and arena shows like Sesame Street Live — creating and performing and captivating people just like a big purple dinosaur on TV did him.

“That would be a dream for me,” says Cedwan. “That would be excellent. I would love to have my name known for what I do.”

In addition to the Starlight Theatre Blue Star Award, Cedwan won a major scholarship to the Puppeteers of America National Puppetry Festival in Atlanta, Ga. where he got to train with the masters and learn some of their secrets and expand his networking universe. He’s already starting to apply to audition with some of them.

http://fox4kc.com/2012/07/18/young-master-of-make-believe-ready-to-hit-the-big-time-of-puppetry/

Sun Publications December 22, 2010 Kristin Babcock

High school theatre program gets top nod 

Shawnee Mission North High School students, from left, Liz Finn, Amy Hastings and Ben Johnson perform ‘Snuff the Girl’ from the musical ‘Urinetown.’ The school’s theater program was named one of the top in the country by Stage Directions magazine in November."

The Shawnee Mission North High School theater program is celebrating a glowing review.

Stage Directions Magazine in the November issue named the program the top high school theater program in the Midwest and one of the top five programs in the country.

The news was "the most exciting thing ever," for the 350 students who dedicate a lot of time to the program, senior Amy Hastings said.

"We love what we’re doing and we really will work long and hard at it," she said. "…We all love it, which is why it is really great."

This is the third year the magazine has presented the award for American high school programs. This year the high schools selected had "strong community and administration support, plus excellent peers," writer Kevin M. Mitchell said in the magazine.

Some of North’s strong points mentioned in the magazine are opportunities for students to write their own plays, community outreach and an advanced repertory class. Producing work worthy of this type of honor takes effort from everyone, senior Steven Roemer said.

"It’s a team," he said.

The teachers and students at North, 7401 Johnson Drive, work to build an environment where people believe that "every single person on stage matters," Steven said.

"If one person has a stale attitude then the whole thing goes down the drain," he said. "If the chorus and supporting characters didn’t do their job the show would be worse than if the leads didn’t do their job."

This year the North theater program celebrates theater instructor Maureen Davis having taught at the school for 25 years. Many of those years she taught with Margaret McClatchey, who has retired and has a theater at the school named after her.

The school has three theater instructors now, including Ben Bartlett, who graduated from North in 1998.

"The program was really built by Margaret McClatchey and Davis," he said. "They taught together for many years and laid the foundation for what it is we have currently. It is a lot of fun to be able to still be a part of it and keep it going."

Davis said she nominated the program for the Stage Directions award and it was "sweet, sweet, sweet" to hear that North gained the recognition.

The mission of the program has never been to only train kids for careers in theater, Davis said. The goal is to give students communication skills, and help them think on their feet and become problem solvers.

"It’s life skills, and that is what theater teaches," she said. "It’s empowering the kids and giving them leadership roles."

Teachers have always worked to make sure each student also gains a sense of accomplishment and acceptance.

"The thing theater provides is that if you can’t sing, there’s a place for you. If you can’t act, there’s a place for you," Davis said. "There’s a spot for everyone that wants a spot."

Senior Elizabeth Finn said she came into the program as an "awkward freshman" but the program helped her become who she is today.

"You don’t have to go in and try to impress every single person," she said. "You just go in and be yourself and they will accept you."

Shawnee Mission North students work on more than 10 productions each year. The award gave students an extra push to work harder this year, Elizabeth said.

"We’re going to prove it," she said. "Since we got the honor, it is let’s show them why. I think it will make every show so much better."

It is an exciting time for the program and for the school, Bartlett said.

"It’s a nice recognition," he said. "It’s nice to be recognized and nice to have affirmation for something we always thought was true."

Shawnee Mission North Theatre will present the musical "Hairspray" on Jan. 27, 28 and 29. For information and a list of more Shawnee Mission North productions, visit www.smntheatre.com.

Stage Directions November 2010 Issue

The 2010 High School Theatre Honors Roll Call 

Children of Eden was a recent production at the Shawnee Mission North High School.

There are inspiring theatre teachers in hundreds of high schools, but then there are programs that are nearly awe-inspiring. Our readers have made their case for five in particular, and so we present the five High School Theatre Honors Program winners for 2010. While they’ve reached their journey of excellence through completely uniquely ways, they have one thing in common: strong community and administration support, plus excellent peers.

Midwest

Shawnee Mission North High School
Overland Park, Kan.


“She really teaches students what they need to survive in life,” writes one Shawnee Mission North High School (SMN) student.  “She has excelled at bringing both traditional and nontraditional theatre experiences to the students and audiences in the area,” writes a parent.

“She” is Maureen Davis, who first started at this Kansas City area suburban school in 1985. When she arrived, the school already had a deep theatre heritage being the second oldest thespian troupe in Kansas (they just celebrated their 70th year). Since 1991, they’ve had three full time theatre teachers: herself (per her request, not the head, but just the “older” one), Chris Palmer and 1998 SMN graduate Ben Bartlett.

It’s a big school with a big performing arts program. “We have around 350 students taking theatre classes, and we do 12 productions a year,” Davis says. There are six sections, so it’s a full year of drama classes with four semesters in the actors studio, five technical theatre classes and two repertory theatre classes. Juniors have the opportunity to participate in an outreach program, which involves them going out and teaching at other schools. They teach creative drama at one of the libraries of an area elementary school, and work to seed an interest in theatre at their “feeder” schools.

There are also opportunities for the students to write their own plays, and productions of original works is common, specifically during their two nights of original one acts they do every year. The appeal of short rehearsals times and inexpensive budgets has inspired them to do this. “We work on those for three or four weeks and try not to spend too much money on them,” she says.

There’s also an advanced repertory class that students have to audition for, and that is essentially a comedy/sketch improv troop.

Their main performance stage was built in 1937, but four years ago they upgraded with a counterweight fly system that has allowed them to, among other things, perform Peter Pan with flying performers twice.
Recent productions have included Rent, Sweeney Todd, Urinetown and Children of Eden. This year they are premiering a new musical, Moo Juice, written by a former graduate Krista Eyler.

 

Shawnee Dispatch October 13, 2010 Ashlee Kieler

Shawnee Mission North theatre department earns boffo review 

Shawnee Mission North theater students rehearse for the upcoming performances of "Urinetown."

The Shawnee Mission North theatre department has made the big time.  Stage Directions magazine selected the department as the Best High School Theater Program in the Midwest.

The magazine selects the top five high schools from the United States to highlight in the November issue of the publication.

Maureen Davis, theater teacher, said the honor was a fantastic achievement for the department.

“Shawnee Mission North has a long tradition of theater excellence and reflects the entire school, students, staff, administration, parents and wonderful encompassing sense of community that has been an integral part of Shawnee Mission North since 1922,” she said.

Tyra Prosser, senior and member of the department’s executive board, said the recognition shows how much time and effort students and faculty put into the department.

“I came here for the theater department,” she said of transferring from Northwest her freshman year. “I had heard so much about it and it was something I wanted to pursue. It has been a great experience.”

Patrick Lee, senior and executive board member, said the recognition speaks volumes to the department leaders, especially Davis.

“She’s what makes everything work here,” he said. “If you ask anyone in a 100-mile radius they’ll know her.”

Alex Montgomery, senior, said the recognition came at the right time for North.

“It’s really exciting and feels really good. With all the realignment talks in the district some people have talked down on North, but we have a lot of great programs,” he said. “The NJROTC is well known, and now this. It just makes you feel proud.”

The department has never been one to shy away from controversial topics in performances, something Tyra and Patrick think helped draw the honor.

“It’s not only the spectrum of the shows but the maturity level,” Patrick said. “Like two years ago we did “Sweeney Todd,” or last year we did “Children of Eden.” I think they showcase the variety of talent we have.”

Allie Mordan, senior, would like people to see the recognition as a symbol of hard work.

“I hope people see that we work really hard on our shows,” she said. “ Everyone here, especially the teachers, are passionate and dedicated. I hope people see how much we care. We’re just a huge family.”

Humberto Salgado, senior, can attest to the feeling of family within the department. He began speaking English only two years ago.

“It’s nice how people help,” he said “When someone isn’t understanding, like for me, when the language is difficult. We’re a family and we work as one. It’s amazing.”

Patrick said the number of opportunities for students in the department was fantastic.

“Whether you’re a freshman or a senior there’s something you can do,” he said. “We have an actors studio for sophomores that helps put the foundation down. I’m a techie, but I made sure I have the acting foundation.”

Davis said the program isn’t all about acting, it’s about building team players and community.

“This award is built on the work of many students, parents, administrators and teachers,” she said. “We are honored that Stage Directions magazine selected Shawnee Mission North. This is not only a great theater department, but a great high school.”

Shawnee Dispatch October 22, 2009 Ashlee Kieler

No Day But Today: North drama students use play theme for community service project 

Juniors Alex Montgomery, Ben Johnson and Steven Roemer act in a scene of ‘Rent: School Edition’

Students at Shawnee Mission North High School are turning the tables on a group protesting the school's production of "RENT."

The announcement of a protest Friday afternoon by Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church prompted students to come together for a silent counterprotest. The church, led by Fred Phelps, is known for picketing funerals of AIDS victims, soldiers killed in action and any number of cultural events it deems in violation of biblical teachings.

Hannah Holloway, 2009 North graduate, helped to organize the counterprotest.

"We found out that Fred Phelps heard about our production of "RENT" and he was going to protest," she said. "We knew that the news would cover it and people would find out, so we decided to take his hate speech and turn it into something positive."

"RENT" is a musical based on the lives of impoverished artists and musicians living in New York. Its characters introduce mature themes such as homosexuality, AIDS and drug abuse.

The school's drama and musical departments, along with the city of Mission and the school's Coalition group turned the themes of the production into a way to help the less fortunate of Johnson County with a food and blanket drive, Holloway said.

"We are tying in the 'No Day but Today' theme (a popular song from the play) with the counterprotest by collecting donations during the counterprotest," she said.

While the Shawnee Mission School District is not taking an active role in Friday's events, Leigh Anne Neal, director of communications, said the district and school have talked with the Overland Park Police Department to ensure safety to students, parents and staff during the protests.

"They (the school) are working and communicating with the Overland Park Police Department in anticipation if a group of representatives from Westboro Baptist Church comes to the area," Neal said. "Our focus is to continue our regularly scheduled day and make sure staff, students and parents are able to do that."

Neal said in the past the district has had groups come to protest but the school and district have not organized a protest.

Holloway said word of the counterprotest spread through a Facebook group started by Nathaniel Zoschke, SMN senior.

"We invited people to a group and event and spread the word," Holloway said. "I totally disagree with the messages that are being propagated by Phelps. I'm very against the hate messages."

Although, Holloway hasn't seen the SMN production of "RENT," which is a toned-down version of the Broadway production, she said the school was doing a great thing by performing it.

"Regardless of how censored it is, it's a fantastic play," she said. "I'm very proud of my high school. It's a really fantastic high school. It was a huge part of my life and to see someone go up and insult it, I wanted to show my pride and turn this negative into a good thing."

Sun Publications October 21, 2009 Kristin Babcock

No Day But Today: North drama students use play theme for community service project 

Junior Ben Johnson and senior Steven James act in a scene of ‘Rent: School Edition’

A musical production has inspired Shawnee Mission North High School students to take action.

Drawing from a central theme of their production of “Rent,” students have developed a service project called “No Day But Today.”

“Knowing the show might prompt some controversy we tried to pick a theme from the show that everyone can agree on,” Mollie McNally, show director, said. “Instead of concentrating on something that divides, we thought we could band together and show there is more to the theme (of the show).”

The rock musical “Rent” debuted on Broadway in the mid 1990s, gaining critical and audience acclaim as well as the Tony for Best Musical.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical tells the story of young artists who live in New York in the late 1980s. The musical chronicles their struggle to survive as poor artists and live with the diagnosis of HIV among several in their community.

In recent years, a modified version of the show called “Rent: School Edition” has become available. This is the version students will perform at North, 7401 Johnson Drive, Overland Park.

This version has fewer displays of affection, the removal of a controversial song and some of the strong language changed, McNally said. However, there was concern that some people would be upset by a musical production that includes characters who have AIDS, characters who do drugs and characters who are homosexual, McNally said.

The show also has prominent themes of friendship, living for the present, and taking care of each other, she said.

“It has kept true with the same characters and plot,” McNally said. “… But it really was the right thing for us to make the production more than just ‘Hey, we’re making a statement.’”

Through Oct. 26, the cast and crew are collecting food, coats, blankets and toiletries to help individuals who need assistance. Boxes have been set up in a variety of locations in Mission to collect the items.

Students are selling bracelets that say “Rent ‘No Day But Today’ SMN.” Proceeds from the bracelets and profits from the productions will go to a school student assistance fund.

“I think this is a good thing because it will show people who maybe are against the show there is more to it,” said junior Amy Hastings, who plays the character Maureen Johnson. “We are doing something good.”

Cast and crew members have also partnered with other student organizations to work on the service project. National Honor Society members helped paint publicity banners.

Students who are members of the Shawnee Mission North Coalition, a service-related organization, have also joined in to help, said junior Jessy McMillon, the stage manager and a member of the coalition.

“You can’t change people’s minds about the controversy, but helping homeless people is something we can do,” Jessy said.

The project has created awareness among some students that homelessness and poverty exist in Johnson County, she said.

Junior Steven Romer, who plays Tom Collins, said he hopes the production and service project will help open minds.

“I think this is a good production to do,” Steven said. “It might open eyes to a younger generation, or a more open-minded world.”

This musical, written by the late playwright Jonathon Larson, was written in part to attract “the MTV generation” to musical theater, McNally said.

The show ran for 12 years on Broadway and created a following of fans, sometimes called “Rentheads.”

Both Amy and senior Steven James, who plays Roger Davis, said there has been a lot of excitement in the cast to have the opportunity to be among the first schools in the country to stage “Rent.”

“It didn’t seem real that we would get to do ‘Rent,’” Steven said. “The show, to me, is about love. I think it is awesome we can give back to people who need help and I’m glad we have the chance to help them out.”

Students have worked with the city of Mission to help coordinate donation locations.

“We have a lot of needy families in this area, so we are hoping this will help solve some of their problems and refurbish some of their stocks,” said Suzie Gibbs, Mission Convention and Visitors Bureau chairwoman.

“I thought this was wonderful. I love to see kids get on the bandwagon to help people.”

Shawnee Dispatch January 20, 2009 Ashley Kieler

Themed dinner to raise funds for foundation

The Shawnee Mission North Opportunity Fund wants community members to be their guest Saturday night.

“Be Our Guest,” the foundation’s first official fundraiser, includes an Italian dinner with Beauty & the Beast cast members from Shawnee Mission North, between performances.

Cast members from the Beauty & the Beast performance will be attending the dinner in costume, while visiting with community members.

The Shawnee Mission North Opportunity Fund officially formed in the spring of 2008 as a way to offer financial help to students, said Eric Berndt, SMNOF president.

The group’s goal is to raise money to help North students with the costs for classes or to pay fees required for participating in curricular and extra-curricular activities. Berndt said some costs could include activity fees, sports equipment, convention registration, choir and band fees, uniforms and possibly some travel expenses.

Our area has a wide range of people with different finances, and some people need help, Berndt said.

“It’s important to know that we aren’t expanding district curriculum, we are not expanding staff or departmental resources in the school,” Berndt said. “We are trying to direct assistance to individual students or departments to keep individual students in programs.”

The fund is affiliated with the Shawnee Mission Education Fund, allowing contributions to the fund to be tax-deductible.

While the “Be Our Guest Dinner” is the fund’s first official fundraiser, Berndt said committee members have been hard at work raising money.

Members have contacted area businesses for support, as well as Shawnee Mission North Alumni. Berndt said it was important not to fundraise in the school, since those are the people they are trying to help.

“We are working to contact all the alumni, that’s hundreds of thousands of people,” Berndt said. “It’s a huge task.”

But the task is worth it to help the students.

The fund hasn’t helped any students yet, Berndt said.

“We want to lay the ground work funding so we know we are in good shape,” he said. “We are getting close to that. We’re in a position that we could offer help later this spring, but the consensus is more the beginning of the school year.”

Pairing with the drama department brought a good balance to the fund, Berndt said.

“Anything we can do to establish the foundation in the community and at North,” he said. “The drama department at North gets a lot of contact. We thought it was good exposure and that’s invaluable.”

Board members for SMNOF are planning a larger fundraiser this spring and next fall.

“We intend to have a larger fundraiser in the spring and fall every year,” Berndt said.

While similar foundations are in place throughout the school district, Berndt maintains SMNOF is unique.

“Our approach is to make a connection with students,” he said.

On Saturday, characters will join guests for dinner between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. at the Sylvester Powell, Jr., community center. An Italian dinner buffet will begin at 5 p.m.

Dinner is $15 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Guests are encouraged to dress as their favorite Beauty and the Beast Character or in nice dress clothes.

Beauty and the Beast will be presented at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday at the SMN auditorium. Tickets for the play are $7 or $5 for North students with activity cards.

Shawnee Dispatch April 1, 2008 Leann Sulzen

North students challenged to play mentally disabled

Terrance Newman (left) plays Lucien Smith, a resident of a care facility and Kathryn Bowman plays his social worker in Shawnee Mission North’s production of “The Boys Next Door.”

Shawnee Mission North High School students will offer a glimpse of what it is like to be mentally disabled in their spring play, "The Boys Next Door."

The play, written by Tom Griffin, tells the story of four mentally disabled men who live in a group home and their social worker, Jackie.

Senior Gregory Myers plays Arnold Wiggins, senior Terrance Newman plays Lucien P. Smith, senior Tylor Loxterman plays Norman Bulansky, junior Alex Hill plays Barry Klemper and senior Kathryn Bowman plays Jackie.

Director Ben Bartlett said he chose "The Boys Next Door," because of its message.

"I thought it would be an important play to do to give high-schoolers a glimpse into the lives of the mentally disabled," he said. "The reason I chose this play specifically is the writer of this one just presents the characters of this play so lovingly."

However, he said it was a challenge for the students to feel comfortable playing characters with mental disabilities.

"The biggest fear that was expressed was the fear that people would think that they were making fun of them," Bartlett said. "We are going to strive for honesty with these characters."

To help the students prepare for their roles, Bartlett sought out North paraprofessional Brandon Sollenberger, who works with students with mental disabilities.

Sollenberger showed the students a video that normally is used for training paraprofessionals.

"There are lots of activities they do to make them feel like they are a disabled person," Sollenberger said.

During rehearsals, Sollenberger has been present to help students make their characters seem real.

"With every character there has been something I’ve been able to draw from my experience with my students," he said.

Tylor said he has been able to develop his character through his own experiences. He helps care for a 10-year-old boy named Sam who is severely autistic, and he also helps with his father who is mentally disabled because of brain damage.

"I take it a little bit more seriously," Tylor said of his role as Norman Bulansky, who works in a donut shop.

Junior Annie Rosenbrook, who plays Mrs. Fremus, Mrs. Warren and Clara, said it was important to be realistic with her characters.

"There is a fine line between real and true and looking like you’re making fun of it," she said. "I think a lot of times people have that mentality that these people are just disabled and write it off, but they have their own things going on and they have their own lives."

KC Community News January 24, 2008 Carolyn Cogswell, staff writer

SM North's Production of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" brings together students of different backgrounds.

Freshman Billie Lubis, who dances and sings in the ensemble, said she identifies with Millie’s move to New York from Salina, Kan.

"I want to move to New York when I’m older, after school," she said. "I can relate to it because I want to be like Millie. I like being on stage, in front of people."

Megan Birdsall, 28, a graduate of North and the Boston Conservatory, and one of the show’s choreographers, is a jazz singer.

"I try to give them hard steps so they feel good about themselves," she said "I try to make them look good."

Her younger brother, junior Cameron Birdsalln , plays Jimmy Smith, the boy Millie falls in love with. Cameron said he has been performing since second grade.

Senior Kaylyn Wright plays Millie Dilmount. She has performed in "Hair" and "Nunsense" since she moved here from Georgia last year.

Sophomore Sean Foster plays Millie’s boss, Mr. Trevor Graydon.

"It’s challenging," Sean said. "I’m a pretty relaxed guy. I have to be really sharp and quick and down to business. That’s been the most challenging thing, not stepping back into the old laidback self."

Sean complimented director and drama instructor Maureen Davis.

"Working with Ms. Davis has been a great experience," he said. "She’s an amazing director. She knows so much and she’s taught me a lot."

Senior Newell Bowman plays Mrs. Meers, who kidnaps young women who come to New York to get involved in show business, and ships them to China as slaves.

Newell said Mrs. Meers, who wanted to be a star, is now bitter and wants to get back at the world.
"I can understand her being bitter about what she feels was taken away from her," Newell said.

Senior Aniseto Herrera plays comic villain Bun Foo, Mrs. Meers’ assistant. Foo and his brother Chin Ho, played by senior Brian Harris, kidnap "orphans" and provide much of the show’s comedic dialogue. He said he has performed with Cameron in productions since "Fiddler on the Roof" in the sixth grade.

Senior ensemble member Younes Chebloune said he has been in theater three years. Younes said he "discovered" theater as a sophomore, when he moved here from France.

Orchestra director Karen Hensel explained the orchestra’s placement behind the actors and dancers, rather than in the pit.

"Our goal is to make people think there’s some sort of recording back here," she said.

"Millie" is one of senior Greg Myers’ favorite shows because of his role as stage manager.

"The more involved you are with the show, the more you get out of it," he said.

Greg said scene changes are easier now because of the school’s new fly system, a set of ropes and pulleys that enables technical crew to lift set pieces, microphones and lights from an opening above the stage.

A voter-approved bond issue paid for the system, he said.

Shawnee Dispatch October 16, 2007 Leann Sulzen

Brothers direct, play in North’s production of ‘Noises Off’

Wrapped up as the duo-character Fredrick Fellows/Philip Brent, Nathan Bartlett listens to instructions from director Lloyd Dallas, played by Andrew Johnson.

Theater is a family affair for Nathan and Ben Bartlett.

Nathan is a senior at Shawnee Mission North High School and plays Frederick Fellows in the school’s production of “Noises Off” that is directed by Ben, his older brother and theater teacher at North.

As the youngest of 10 children, Nathan said having Ben as a teacher has helped them bond.

“We’ve grown closer since he’s been a teacher here,” he said. “Seeing him everyday, that just kind of happens naturally.”

The brothers are two of 10 children, and although Nathan now lives in Prairie Village with his parents, he transferred to North where the rest of his brothers and sisters went to school.

“I didn’t want to break the tradition,” he said.

Not only do they have the theater in common, they also have similar career interests. Nathan said he also would like to go into secondary education and teach English and drama.

“I like being able to teach people and being around kids,” he said.

“Noises Off” opened Tuesday and plays at 7 tonight, Friday and Saturday.

Ben said he chose the farce because he knew the students enjoyed doing comedies.

“I’d seen this before and I thought it’d be fun to do,” he said. “The thing that attracted me to the play is the quirky characters and their interactions with each other.”

“Noises Off,” written by Michael Frayn in 1982, is essentially a play within a play as it tells the story of a traveling theater group that is performing the comedy “Noises On.” Each act of “Noises Off” shows the first act of “Noises On” during dress rehearsal, at a matinee show and near the end of the show’s 10-week run.

As the play continues its run, the cast members hopelessly try to hold the production together when things begin to fall apart.

Ben said none of the characters can be described as a leading role, which gives all of the students more stage time.

“I like the fact the parts were evenly distributed and all students have a chance to shine,” he said.