With two hours to show time, Beatrice High School theater students clustered in the dressing room, both helping and working around each other as they apply makeup and adjust their costumes.
Music played over the Hevelone Center for Performing Arts’ speakers as students laughed and goofed around, some nervous but excited, some sad that it’s their last show before graduation.
Scenes were run, last minute improvisations were discussed, and props double checked to be in their correct locations before the students gave their final performance of “The Secret Garden” Monday night.
The play – based on Frances Hodgeon Burnett’s novel of the same name – followed Mary Lennox, who is set to live with her hermit uncle in a secluded British manor after losing her parents to a cholera outbreak. After befriending the house's inhabitants – including her sickly cousin, Colin – Mary stubbornly decides to revive the beauty of the manor's hidden, overgrown garden.
“She’s finding out all these secrets about her uncle’s manor, and what’s in and around it,” said sophomore Ellie Whitfield, who played the titular character.
Whitfield said she joined the theater department last semester, so the thought of playing the main character made her anxious at first.
“It’s actually not that bad. Brumond’s pretty good at telling us how to handle stuff,” Whitfield said, referring to theater instructor Emily Brumond.
Sophomore Austin Thavenet discussed the challenges with his character, as well. As Colin Craven, Thavenet played a sickly 10-year-old that shifts through his emotions very quickly.
“It was really challenging at first, but once I kind of got to know the character better and thought about how to do it, I’ve definitely gotten better,” Thavenet said.
Thavenet said he joined the theater program his freshman year due to positive peer pressure.
“I never thought I would be able to get onto a stage and do that, but after joining I’m like ‘OK, definitely I’m going to do this,’” Thavenet said.
Senior Josh Netherton, who played Neville Craven, said he’s been part of the theater program for two years.
“I joined when I was a new kid, and they pretty much treated me like family,” Netherton said.
“We all know each other’s weird quirks and all that,” senior KayLeigh Volkmer said. “I really like having that connection with a large group of people.”
Volkmer, who played Mary’s servant, Martha, said that although the students received their roles and scripts at the beginning of the semester, they only had a month on stage to block scenes and put together the set.
“We spent forever and a half doing the set, because we don’t have a lot of time in the Hevelone, with show choir and all of that happening earlier in the semester,” Volkmer said. “So a lot of us were staying some practiced until 9-9:30 p.m., just trying to paint the bricks and build the flowerbeds.”
Volkmer – who is planning to study education and theater at Peru State College – said she is proud of the progress everyone’s made,
“Especially the ones that are first timers, at least on this stage with this group of people,” Volkmer said.