A weekend of theater

Three local plays open

Sweetwater County residents have multiple opportunities to enjoy local theater in the coming days with three different plays hosting their performances between November 9 and 18.

This weekend, Green River High School's theater department will be performing the classic story "Steel Magnolias," Western Wyoming Community College's theater department will present the musical "Chicago," and Actors' Mission will put on a production of "Floyd Collins and the White Angels of Sand Cave."

Steel Magnolias

Green River High School's newest production is a 1987 play that inspired the 1989 film, "Steel Magnolias."

The story is set in the fictional northwestern Louisiana parish of Chinquapin and focuses on the friendship of a group of women through their lives, showing their support for one another as they work through personal challenges.

While the story was a play before it was a movie, Director Bradlee Skinner is aware that doing a play which has been turned into a film can be difficult.

"It is always a challenge for actors to create their own characters and not copy the performances from the film," Skinner said. "All our performers have done a great job of doing just that."

Skinner said the story and cast are unique because all the characters are women. This has presented some challenges for him as a male director, so he said he has relied heavily on his assistant director, Lindy Deckard, the costume designer, Julie Mortensen, the makeup designer, Julia Eaton, and his "always supportive wife" Melissa Skinner to help him bring out the best performances from the entire cast.

"It truly gives the young ladies in our program a chance to shine," Skinner said.

Bringing out the best from the cast members helps tell a powerful story which Skinner hopes people will connect to.

"It is often heralded as the most dramatic play that you will laugh at or the most hilarious comedy that will make you cry," he said. "This play tugs at the heart strings by not only showcasing the love a mother has for her daughter but the value and importance of the good friends around us and not to take that for granted."

"Steel Magnolias" will be performed at GRHS Nov. 10, 11, 12 and 14 at 7 p.m., with a 1 p.m. matinee Nov. 12. Tickets are $7 and available at the door.


Another theatrical production which has been turned into a film is the musical "Chicago," which is Western Wyoming Community College's next production. "Chicago," which is based on a 1926 play, opened on Broadway in 1975, and was turned into a film in 2002.

This story takes place in the Roaring Twenties of Chicago, during the height of Prohibition, speakeasys, flappers and jazz. Roxie Hart murders her faithless lover and convinces her hapless husband to take the blame. Convicted and sent to prison to await trial, she and another "Merry Murderess," Velma Kelly, vie for the headlines, ultimately joining forces in search of their version of the American Dream.

Hana Tanaka, a second-year musical theater major from Fukuoka, Japan, plays the role of Hunyak, according to a press release.

"My character is the only female prisoner to be executed in Chicago," Tanaka said. "She speaks Uncle Sam's name to the end and pleads her innocence, but no one understands her because she does not speak English. When I came to the U.S. as a foreign student from Japan, I often felt the language barrier and experienced the frustration and struggle of not being able to communicate what I wanted to say to others. I have friends who can help me, but she had no help. The scene of her hanging in a foreign country, dying alone, is one of the most serious and realistic scenes in Chicago."

Brookelynn White is a second-year musical theater major from Cheyenne. She plays a variety of roles, including several newspaper reporters.  

"It feels great to be someone that existed in the 1920s," White said. "As a news reporter, I have developed more of an understanding of how they acted: being in someone's face to get answers to their questions, always in a rush to be the first one on the scene so that I can be the first one to write about what is happening."

The story is described as a "sharp-edged satire of American justice and media frenzy."

"Chicago" will be performed at Western Nov. 10, 11, 12 and 18 at 7:30 p.m., with a public matinee on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $13 for adults and $8 for youth and seniors and are available online or by calling the Box Office at (307) 382-1721. Western advises that this production may not be suitable for those under 17 without a parent due to adult themes, alcohol, gunshots, and strong language.

Floyd Collins and the White Angels of Sand Cave

Another story dealing with media frenzy and sensationalism is "Floyd Collins and the White Angels of Sand Cave," which will be performed by The Actors' Mission.

Set in Kentucky, where caves were a source of tourism and revenue, this play tells the mostly true story of Floyd Collins, according to a press release.

Collins set out in 1925 to find another entrance to the popular Mammoth Cave. Instead, he found himself trapped, and trapped for life. For two weeks, Collins lay pinned underground by a boulder in Sand Cave. Rescue attempts evolved into a nationwide media circus heightened by the new invention of radio broadcasts.

In the play, a group of neighbors of Floyd Collins try to remember the details of the story and what actually happened as a counter to the distortions and disinformation that surfaced in popular songs, TV programs and films that came later. The actors play multiple roles as the play switches back and forth from the present to the past.

The play is co-directed by Heather E. Pristash and Nina Tyler, and features many of the core troupe of the Actors' Mission community theater as well many new-comers.

Tyler noted that "Floyd Collins and the White Angels of Sand Cave" is as geographically relevant to the abandoned mines and caves of Sweetwater County as it is pertinent to contemporary media sensationalism.

"It's a story that could happen right here, right now. But what makes the story a tragedy is not necessarily the entrapment itself or the distorted media reports, but the misguided efforts of rescue. Floyd Collins wasn't killed by a rock," she said. "He was killed by hope."

"Floyd Collins and the White Angels of Sand Cave" is presented in agreement with Blue Moon Plays and is partially funded by Sweetwater BOCES. The play opened Nov. 9 and will be performed at the Broadway Theater in Rock Springs Nov. 10, 11 and 12 at 7 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, Nov. 13. Following Actors' Mission tradition, a complimentary meal will be served one hour prior to all performances and there is no admission fee, but donations are welcome.


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