Seems everyone knows Dr. Seuss and many love his whimsical, childhood books with outrageous stories and concocted characters. Heritage chose to present the play “Seussical” as their May production coinciding with Parents’ Week.
Julia DuBois, Events and Foundation Manager, directed the play, all with roles filled by Heritage students.
“It’s all the works of Dr. Seuss put into a show,” Julia said. “We did the first round of auditions in January but got more students in March. We had 14 actors, two student designers and three students on the stage crew.”
Julia said the play was presented three times in May, twice for the local community and parents and once as a dress rehearsal for Heritage students and faculty. There were difficulties along the way but were tackled with flexibility and innovation.
“The students were amazing,” she said. “Some had to jump in at the last minute. We lost lead characters a few times but others jumped in and did the whole thing without prompting from me. They came back after memorizing and did the job.”
One student who came to the rescue late in the game as a lead character was Sienah, 16. Julia said Sienah motivated herself to do what was needed.
“You can only inspire people so much,” Julia said. “In the end you have to do it yourself.”
Sienah, who played JoJo of Whoville and Bird Girl number 3, said she heard the production was losing a lot of main characters and wanted to try something new.
“I decided to push myself and jumped in as a backup,” she said. “Later I was offered a main role. I was pretty nervous. I thought about it for a week and thought it would be cool and a good opportunity.”
Charlotte, 16, who played Mayzie and Miss Mayor, said for the most part it was easy to be a part of the production but there were difficult times.
“You have to work out things,” she said. “We have other things we do outside of the play. If someone had a negative day they brought it there. We found ways to work as a team. We did team building things and we worked well as a family.”
Charlotte said she suffered a bit from stage fright but the staff and Julia were supportive and encouraging.
“If someone was having a bad day they were there to support us and help us through,” she said.
Sienah also voiced high praise for Julia’s role in helping the cast and crew.
“She is amazing,” she said. “She’d come to rehearsals and say, ‘I love all of you – I’ll do anything for you.’ She’s so loving. She said, ‘I believe in you!’ and was very encouraging. I looked forward to it every day – I wanted to see Julia.”
Sienah said the biggest challenge was having confidence on stage since it was her first time acting. Even though nervous at times, she said she learned confidence and treasured the greatest moment which came at the end.
“I loved the applause I got,” she said. “I knew I had done well and they appreciated it. It felt good. My mom was there, crying in the audience – she was so happy!”
Julia explained the biggest challenge to these productions is the students themselves.
“Every student is here for a reason,” she said. “Getting students to commit and be vulnerable enough to be on stage is the hardest part – getting them to want to be there. Very few in the show had done a lot of shows before. Some had done dance or acting camps.”
Learning to be a team was part of what made the production a success.
“They learned to act as a team and work through difficult situations,” she explained. “There were a lot of stressful situations, how to do something or wear something or be something you don’t necessarily want to do or wear or be. They are a lot more confident in themselves and in their abilities – sometimes they had to work through awkward situations that happened in the show.”
One of those awkward situations happened to Charlotte on stage.
“I was dancing in front of people and my shoe flew off in the performance,” she said. “I just danced off stage, kicked off the other one and came back and bowed.”
She said her greatest moment also came at the end.
“My parents came and afterward they hugged me and my dad gave me a flower,” she said. “He was crying tears of joy. They are proud of me. They know I can do really hard things.”
Julia is proud of how far the changing cast had come and what they accomplished together.
“The greatest reward was seeing them do the show from beginning to end without any help from me,” she said. “They did the whole show by themselves. The show was theirs; they made it their own. They were happy for each other and for themselves and felt a sense of accomplishment.”
Although late to the production, Sienah was caught up in all the good that came from it.
“The confidence you get onstage – it’s magical,” she said. “I didn’t want it to end.”