Summer theatre stage prep

Sheldon High School Summer Theatre staff members Logan Merley and Ryer Dacken help put up the set for the first show of the summer theatre season, “Daddy’s Dyin’ . . . Who’s Got the Will?”

SHELDON—The 2019 Sheldon High School Summer Theatre season will include a wide range of shows that the program director said are sure to appeal to a variety of audience members.

“We have a really interesting variety this year,” said Lissa Lane-Johnson, who is in her 26th year directing the summer theatre program.

This summer’s repertoire includes comedies, a murder mystery, a drama, a children’s show and a musical that will close out the season.

The six shows are all directed by Sheldon High School graduates who were involved in the summer theatre program while they were in high school.

Lane-Johnson said rehearsals for the first show began the second week of May while classes still were in session at the high school.

That was around the time she said the director for the first show completed her spring semester at Northwestern College in Orange City.

“Every college is different where they let out, so we have to kind of wait for the directors,” Lane-Johnson said.

Preparing for the shows is no small feat. Since all of the shows are performed within a relatively short period of time, Lane-Johnson said she and the student directors spend 50-70 hours a week rehearsing and preparing for opening night.

“Sometimes it takes longer than others, but you just stick around,” she said. “That’s why our hours are so weird.”

Lane-Johnson said she always looks forward to seeing the talent her students bring to the stage in every show. She is particularly excited about the drama, “Radium Girls,” which she said will be a touching show.

The summer theatre program is self-supporting and makes money through ticket sales and local sponsors. Tickets for the shows will be available at the door. They will cost $7 for adults and $5 for K-12 students.

Here is a preview of this season’s shows:

‘Daddy’s Dyin’ . . . Who’s Got the Will?’

The family comedy, “Daddy’s Dyin’ . . . Who’s Got the Will?” by Del Shores will kick off the theatre season.

The play tells the story of four adult siblings who reunite to be with their ailing father but also must navigate tensions among themselves.

Directed by 2017 Sheldon graduate Libby Ven Huizen, the show will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 6-8, in the auditorium.

‘Escanaba in Da Moonlight’

Lane-Johnson said this comedy, written by Jeff Daniels, is about “a bunch of men from Michigan hunting deer.”

Several of the students were chosen to be in this show because they have experience doing improvisational acting, she said, which fit well with the show.

“Escanaba in Da Moonlight” is directed by 2018 Sheldon graduate Luke Jansma and will run at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 13-15, in the high school commons.

‘Radium Girls’

The third show, “Radium Girls” by D.W. Gregory, is inspired by true events from the 1920s.

It tells the story of girls who became sick from their work painting radium on the dials of luminous watches. One of the workers takes on their employer in court. The employer denies the radium was causing their illnesses.

Lane-Johnson said this show will differ from the others because of the unique staging.

“A lot of it’s done not as much with set as with lighting, and stuff like that,” she said.

Directed by 2018 Sheldon graduate Lauren Davis, “Radium Girls” will run at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 20-22, in the auditorium.

‘Murder, Ahoy!’

The fourth show of the season is a murder mystery that takes place aboard a cruise ship and will include audience participation.

Lane-Johnson said the theatre program has done shows that included audience members in the past but said “Murder, Ahoy!” will be different.

“It’s different because it’s got more of that, more of an immersive experience so they feel like they’re part of this murder mystery and the cruise itself,” she said.

The show is directed by 2016 Sheldon graduate Logan Merley and will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 27-29, in the commons.

‘Rapunzel (Uncut)’

The fifth show, “Rapunzel (Uncut),” will offer a new look at the fairy tale of Rapunzel, Lane-Johnson said, and will be the children’s show of the season.

She said the children’s show is the most important of the season because it exposes young kids to theatre and can spark their future interest in participating in theatre.

“So to me, the children shows really, really important,” she added.

Madeline Gude, a 2018 Sheldon graduate, is directing “Rapunzel (Uncut).” There will be a 7 p.m. showing Thursday and Friday, July 4-5, and a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, July 6. It will be performed in the commons. 

‘Mamma Mia!’

Wrapping up the summer theatre season will be the musical “Mamma Mia!”

Lane-Johnson said this show will be exciting for the audience since it is a musical many people are already familiar with.

Part of the reason she chose this show for the musical was because the casting for it fit well with the students in the theatre program.

“We have the right people for the show, and it’s going to be fun. Everybody’s looking forward to it,” she said.

Lane-Johnson, along with 2018 Sheldon graduate Dakota Peters, will be directing “Mamma Mia!” Merley will be the musical director for the show, with help from longtime staff member and Sheldon graduate Amanda Henning.

“She is always our accompanist for music and also just a really steady presence in the program,” Lane-Johnson said of Henning.

The musical will run at 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday, July 11-12, and at a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, July 14. There will not be a showing on Saturday, July 13. It will be performed in the auditorium.