Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

February 22, 2014

Cast, crew preparing for "Beauty and the Beast"

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — Work continued behind the scenes of the Knoxville High School musical production of "Beauty and the Beast" on Saturday. Cast, crew, parents and supports alike have all come together to prepare for the first high school production inside the Knoxville Performing Arts Center. 

The play has a few differences from the well-known Disney animated film of the same name, according to the "Beauty" in the title, Jocelyn Beaver. Beaver, a senior, has been involved in several musicals over the years for KHS and Knoxville Area Community Theatre. The role of beauty Belle is one of her first leads, though big roles have previously come her way. She played Carlotta in last year's production of "Phantom of the Opera." 

The story is different for Beaver's co-star, fellow senior Austin Ramsey. Ramsey plays the Beast, and he was fortunate to land the male lead on his first attempt at taking part in musical theater. Ramsey said he got involved because members of the Class of 2013 told him how much fun taking part in the plays can be. He has found that they were right. 

"I wish I would have done it last year," Ramsey said. "It's just...the experience is real fun." 

Both Ramsey and Beaver are honored to have the lead roles in the inaugural high school production in the new auditorium. The community has shown its excitement for the production, as $1,500 worth of tickets for the shows were sold Monday, the first day tickets were available. 

While rehearsals have began to run later as production dates draw near, Ramsey and Beaver said the differences can be seen. Both feel as though the entire cast and crew are extremely well-prepared to put on a memorable show. The show's director, Jackie Duffy, agrees. 

Before the cast was in place, longtime set designer, Dawn Flattery, was already working to get to know the ins and outs of the Performing Arts Center. She participated in the formal training, offered when the facility initially opened, to learn about the fly rigs system, which will allow set backdrops to rise up and down. Rachel Humeston and Ryan Richardson will be running this system for the "Beauty and the Beast" production. 

The set pieces, known as panels, are all-new this year. Duffy and Flattery thought that with the new facility should come new panels. The former ones held many memories of KHS and K-ACT productions, as well as the multiple layers of paint, damage and wear. Flattery worked to build new panels, and is still working on them. 

"I figured, 'Go big or go home,'" Flattery said. In addition to the 50 new panels, she has also built several other set pieces, including stained-glass windows, a grand staircase and a fountain, all for "Beauty and the Beast," but with the foresight of future productions. Nothing was confirmed, but KHS is considering a "Sound of Music" performance next year, which can again utilize the staircase. 

Flattery started off her plans for the set by designing it on a piece of graph paper. She has not only watched the animated film, but several other live productions of the musical to understand what key backdrops there would be. Using this knowledge, information of the stage area and other extensive forethought, she came up with a design that will work best for the KHS production. 

When asked how much time she has spent designing and building for this production, Flattery was not sure. She said it would not be an exaggeration to say that she has put in over 300 hours on the production. Flattery was also given a key to the auditorium, to allow her to come in and work on it when she could.

Flattery has been building sets for KHS productions for seven years. She started when her children were still involved. They have since graduated, but Flattery's passion for the work was not bound to the typical four-year high school stint. 

Other parents have also contributed to set construction, alongside the students, on every Saturday since Jan. 6, according to Duffy. The set work usually takes all day. 

"Beauty and the Beast" is not only an elaborate production from the set design standpoint, but the costumes are spectacular as well. KHS often rents costumes from the Union Street Theater Shop in Pella, but someone else had already reserved most of the medieval-style costumes during most of the "Beauty and the Beast" rehearsal and performance time frame. 

That's when, Duffy says, Liz Adrian went to work. According to Duffy, Adrian has assembled a team to create and sew costumes for the play. Work has also been done to make adjustments to costume pieces, picked up at second-hand shops, garage sales, etc., to help them fit in with the play's time period. 

Duffy said at a recent church service, she spent the entire coffee hour going around the church, thanking team members for their assistance in costume preparation. KHS is still renting approximately $100 worth of costumes from the shop. As a bonus, Knoxville stands a chance of being able to sell its "Beauty and the Beast" costumes to Oskaloosa for that town's production of the play next year. 

With all of the work done by others, no one can discount how much time and effort the student cast and crew have put into this production, nor the amount of pride they are taking to be part of the musical. 

Beaver said the additional stage space created in the auditorium has made things better. She is also excited, and preparing to be swarmed by little girls, at a Royal Party on Saturday, March 8, from 1-3 p.m. at the auditorium. She and other cast members will be posing for pictures and more, all for the benefit of the KHS Yearbook and Dance Team. Royal Package tickets for this event are $3 each and can be purchased that day. 

Later that night (Saturday, March 8) from 5-7 p.m., the KHS After Prom will be serving a spaghetti dinner inside the commons for $5 per person. The cost includes spaghetti, garlic bread, dessert and beverage.

Spaghetti dinner tickets can be purchased with Beauty and the Beast show tickets at the Next Chapter gift and boutique at 202 E. Robinson Street. Dinner tickets only can also be purchased at Visions Hair Design Studio at 302 North Sherman, Hy-Vee Food Store at 813 North Lincoln and by calling KHS Junior Class parent Michelle Harry at 641-218-8552. A ticket request can also be coordinated by emailing to: After-Prom Spaghetti Dinner at Walk-up ticket sales will be welcomed at the door the night of the event.

All proceeds from the spaghetti dinner will benefit the KHS After-Prom Committee, which is coordinating a safe and fun night of activities for prom-goers on Saturday, April 12. 

Production dates for "Beauty and the Beast" will be March 7-8 at 7 p.m., and March 9 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available at The Next Chapter and online at Duffy says there are still plenty of good seats available. 

As mentioned, the performers are confident in their abilities to put on the show. Ramsey is also thankful for the support shown by his employer, the Hy-Vee meat department, in working around his rehearsal and performance schedule. He is also eager to see his Beast mask, which is being made by Jill Edwards. Overall, he says working on the play has been a good experience and he appreciates all of the support, and the effort everyone has made thus far.

"Everyone's working real hard," Ramsey said. "It's surprising to everyone how far along we are."