On Dec. 7 and 8 the Cedaredge High School Theatre Program will present the Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life" for its fall play. The show begins at 7 p.m.
Usually the theatre program holds a production in November. But social studies teacher and director Nick Parsons welcomed a new addition to the family this year during that time.
Thus he decided to use the opportunity to showcase the heartwarming 1946 American Christmas fantasy comedy-drama.
This year marks Parsons' seventh year of directing at CHS. With around 37 students participating, he said this is probably his largest cast and crew yet. Students from CES and CMS are also involved for various roles.
Last week the crew met together on Friday, Nov. 30 and ran through all 31 scenes from start to finish -- off script. Aside from a couple sick cast members and a few callings for lines, they looked as if they had been in rehearsals for longer than a few days.
The play process began in September with script reading auditions. Cold reading allowed Parsons to see how a student portrayed a character on their first run through.
During October and November students worked behind the scenes.
"[Before rehearsing together] they had to find props and costumes, design the set and memorize lines," he said. "Participating in a play program builds skills in students they need to be successful like working together and being responsible."
Like last year, about two weeks will be spent in rehearsals. The first week practices usually run for a few hours, from after school till about 6:30 p.m. The week of the show, though, rehearsals can run for as long as five hours.
Parsons said the couple days leading up to opening night can be stressful, but that it's all worth it when the time comes and he can proudly watch his students perform. "I love seeing their energy and fun as they put on a show for the audience," he said. "They really make it their work."
Senior Wyatt Camp plays the lead role of George Bailey. "I love during performances when I can just stop thinking about lines and get into character," he said. This is his sixth production. He decided to audition for the production because he sees value in the the theatre program and the play's "important message."
Theatre programs are often an integral part of high schools around the country. Parsons said producing a play helps involve students in another form of art aside from the usual ones of music or drawing.
Even with a large crew, several students act three to five small roles. They learn to juggle various characters and the lines associated with each. Student Trevor Peterson, for example, plays a sheriff, two "random guys" and Freddy.
And he helps move set pieces in-between his roles. Junior Zoe Wood plays three various characters ranging from several lines to one, but all play a critical role in the story.
The play process also involves critical thinking and problem solving. For example, one might not realize how hard it is to find a telephone from the 1920s until hours are spent searching on Ebay. "The whole process has a lot of moving pieces," said Parsons. "Students have to work to get a set built and figure out the technical pieces while working the kinks out."
And in the midst of this Parsons said they still need to focus on acting and the necessary coaching. "A lot of it comes down to prioritizing," he said.
Overall, it's clear hours of work are spent preparing for a show. The community is invited to come watch one night or even both.
Tickets are $3 for students, $5 for seniors and $6 for adults. Ticket costs help fund future productions. Upkeeping lights, purchasing costumes/props and buying scripts and royalties are some of the main expenses behind running a play.