Yellow Medicine East’s Annie debuted on November 8 and 9 to a packed auditorium of theater lovers on edge to hear about the optimistic orphans hard knock life and the Billionaire’s heart she warmed. With a cast of talented youth performers ranging from seventh to twelfth grade, the performance felt seasoned beyond the actors years.
Kaylia Vavricka who played Annie, the lead role, is a meer 8th grader. She found the hardest part in playing Annie was channeling the characters “optimism” but the audience wouldn't know it seeing her smile shine through every song. She said participation in the performance has expanded her interest in theater.
Senior Taylor Bakkelund played Daddy Warbucks with the confidence of a true billionaire. This was probably channeled from his over 10 other theater performance experiences to his credit. The seasoned stage wrangler said “The hardest part for me to overcome with my character was what he was feeling throughout various parts of the musical. He really wanted to help Annie find her parents, yet also at the same time he was thinking about what it'd be like having a little girl around. And so throughout the show, Mr. Warbucks would contemplate whether he really wanted Annie's parents to be found or whether he wanted Annie to stay with him”. Taylor said there was a wealth of new faces in the production compared to his past YME theater experiences, “With lots of new faces it was fun to watch how, as time went on, they warmed up to the feeling of being on stage. And in the end, I think we came up with a pretty good show!”. As a Senior Bakkelund had the maturity of perspective in seeing the benefit of an arts performance impacting positive moods in his own student community, “This production showed me how important the arts are for students. Some evenings coming to rehearsals, some kids would be quiet or seem down. As an older student, watching the younger ones, it was fun to see how their moods would change after they'd sing and dance a bit”.
7th Grader Riley Hoff played Duffy, an orphan the others looked to. The crowd wouldn’t have known it was the youth performers first stage appearance, with a wit and charisma that shone through the character. Hoff said the hardest part in playing Duffy was balancing the anger of an orphan with the playfulness of someone who was still a child. It's reassuring to know Riley will be back to the stage, saying “ We spent so much time together it was like my new family and the stage was my home. We practiced for so long and now that it's over I don't really know what to do.” going on to note “I will most definitely be doing it again next year”.
Some cast members played multiple roles, creating extra personas to master, costumes to develop and additional lines to memorize.
Cole Mathiowetz played Lieutenant Ward, a police officer, and “Rooster”, a villain, out to impersonate Annie’s Father in an attempt to obtain Daddy Warbucks cash award. Cole, also a Senior, has performed in three other local stage productions, Shrek, White Christmas and Kiss Me Kate. He carried a cold through most of the reheasel season saying it was his responsibility to his cast mates that kept him going each practice, trying to put out his best performance each time. Cole said of this experience “it has shown me that I may want to continue a career in the performing arts”, stating his only difficulty in the production getting his Rooster crow just right.
Lilly McGeary, a 9th grader, was another cast member who took on two roles, playing an orphan and Bert Healy, a radio personality. Said “I'm happy it’s over because I missed sleeping but the experience was really fun and I miss it!”. Going on to say the production has made her more interested in acting. The hardest part for Lilly’s characters “running all the time and the costume changes”.
With a motivated and hungry for creativity arts and music department, the YME stage keeps kicking the bar a little higher with each performance. There appears to be a symbiotic relationship in the talent of the YME students body, constantly exceeding the expectations and the wickedly skilled and versatile teaching staff in Krishana Dempcy, Tamara Isfeld and Kristen Castiglione, meeting that next level talent with new challenges and mountains to tackle. With a steady ecosystem of theatrical wealth growing, watch YME’s theater schedule to see what these talented teachers and students churn out for their next piece, a one act production in January 2020.