Children's Theater: School House Rock Live, Jr

July 10, 2003

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2003_07_10.jpgPLATTEVILLE - Actress Anna Spensley has something to prove. Not to the Tony Award selection committee. Not to the theater critics. The two audience members Anna cares about most are the same ones who will give her a ride home when the show is over.

As 35 children from southwest Wisconsin sang and danced to near sold-out crowds June 27-29 in the Heartland Festival performance of School House Rock Live, Jr. at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, Spensley had an eye out for her parents in the crowd.

"Both of my brothers have acted, so I kind of wanted to put on a performance to say that I'm as good of an actor as they are," the 11-year-old from Belmont said.

For many children, the Heartland Festival Children's Theater Workshop gave them a chance to live out a dream of performing under the bright lights of the professional stage. Most of the kids had acted before, but for many this was the first production outside of school.

"It's just been terrific," 13-year-old Meghan Vosberg, Platteville, said. "I've been in small plays and musicals before, but this is the first really big production. It's so exciting for me to meet new people and work with different directors."

For Cassville Middle School teacher Noel Ferguson, School House Rock Live, Jr. was the third performance she's directed for the Children's Theatre Workshop.

"It was a pleasure working with each and every one of these gifted young people. They were such remarkable, determined individuals who set high performance standards for themselves," Ferguson said. "They are so individual. I always like to showcase who they are. It's just fun to try to bring their personalities out on stage."

Harnessing their energy can be a challenge, though. This is the second time participating in the Children's Theatre for 12-year-old Sarah Ellis. She has performed in many other shows, including adult productions.

"With kids it's a little harder because sometimes they don't cooperate as well or sometimes they like socializing with their friends," Ellis said. "It's just natural for us to do that, but I think it's a little frustrating for the director sometimes."

Amid the organized chaos of rehearsals, things stayed fun on the School House Rocks set. During the 36 hours of rehearsal there were the inevitable miscues and forgotten lines, but for those who made mistakes - no big deal.

"It's just an all around fun show. It's not real dramatic, so if you make a mistake, it's just going to be funny," Vosberg said.

Missteps and other mistakes during the actual performance weren't necessarily such a bad thing.

"When we did 'Three is the Magic Number' the first night, the person holding the '30' sign had it upside down and didn't know it," Ferguson said. "It was really fun to watch. We couldn't have planned it any better."

In addition to the great experience of performing onstage, kids had a chance to meet new friends. Ten-year-old David Schoonover is new to the area, having just relocated with his family to Platteville from Galesburg, Ill.

"We moved here five months ago. My parents and I thought that this would be a great experience for me to meet other people," Schoonover said.

For some, the greatest aspect of the Children's Theatre was the opportunity to fraternize with others who share an interest in singing, dancing, acting and the theater.

"It's just so much fun to come in and work with people who are as enthusiastic about it as you are," Spensley said. "I do this because I love singing and dancing. Here I can do it and be myself."

For Spensley, the girl with something to prove, the experience was "awesome." And her parents? They had tickets to all three performances.

The 35-member children's cast was comprised of:

  • Tricia Walsh, Bagley
  • Alyssa Abing, Belmont
  • Anna Spensley, Belmont
  • Sara Spensley, Belmont
  • Mike Randall, Blue River
  • Kelsey Bausch, Cassville
  • Corrine Droessler, Cuba City
  • Megan Anderson, Dodgeville
  • Chloe Nagle, Fennimore
  • Leah Linscheid, Highland
  • Lindsey Benson, Lancaster
  • Michael Benson, Lancaster
  • Jamie Haberlie, Lancaster
  • Willy Jonas, Lancaster
  • Kessa Mayne, Lancaster
  • Molly Ann Terwilliger, Lancaster
  • Andrea McNett, Mineral Point
  • Kelsey Menke, Highland
  • Megan Pierick, Highland
  • Gabriel Stowe Terrell, Hollandale
  • Amy Alcott, Montfort
  • Katelyn Kohout, Monfort
  • Kelsey Kohout, Montfort
  • Ben Demaree, Platteville
  • Daniel Ellis, Platteville
  • Sarah Ellis, Platteville
  • David Schoonover, Platteville
  • Philip Streich, Platteville
  • Avinash Sukhwal, Platteville
  • Meghan Vosberg, Platteville
  • Caroline Grinde, Potosi
  • Allison Morgan, Potosi

Rosemarie Veith, Richland Center Alex Deckert, Scales Mound, Ill. Amara Deckert, Scales Mound, Ill.

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