August 21, 2017

Compilation production likely the final AE drama show

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TWINING — When students take the stage for “An AE Showcase and Old Lace” May 19-20, it will likely be the final Arenac Eastern drama performance, as the school will cease operating next year when students are contracted out to Standish-Sterling.

Director Katie Bouldin said the performance is a compilation.

“We’re doing kind of a murder mystery,” she said. “There are some bullying plays. We’re doing part of ‘Arsenic and Old Lace.’”

The short pieces range from about 30 minutes to 15 minutes and shorter, Bouldin said. Performing in this manner brought about new challenges for student actors, she said.

“They have a lot more lines to learn and they have different characters they have to play rather than staying in character the entire time.”

Bouldin said the eight students acting in the showcase have risen to the task. The crowd will experience a range of emotions, Bouldin said.

“They can expect to laugh at a few of them, to feel sympathy or empathy for some of the characters in some of the bully plays,” she said. “I think they can expect to question ‘Whodunit?’ in our murder mystery one.”

While preparation for the play has gone well, Bouldin said the fact that it is probably the final AE play has been difficult to keep out of the students’ minds at times.

“It’s been emotional,” she said. “The kids have been trying not to think about it, but once in a while it will be brought up and we’re always like, ‘No, no, don’t think about it.’”

Because of the nature of the situation, Bouldin said everyone involved with the production wants it to be memorable.

“I think they really want it to be good,” she said. “Not that they don’t anyways, but I think they’re like, ‘We really want this to be awesome.’ So they’ve been working very hard.”

Retired AE teacher Mike Flore, who directed plays at Eastern for 33 years, said he is proud of what the small school’s drama department has accomplished over the years. Students have changed right before his eyes during plays and rehearsals, he said.

“Some kids need that kind of creative outlet and we provided that for them,” he said. “One of the best parts is to watch a student who’s very unsure of himself, a little stage fright, and by the time you really do the show, you can just see that person grow and grow in confidence throughout the weeks until they pretty much own the stage.”

With so many plays under his belt — most years AE put on two shows — Flore had several stories he remembered vividly.

“I can remember a pudding fight we decided to have in one scene right after we bought new carpet for the stage,” he said. “That was one of the dumbest decisions an AE director ever made, and yes, I was the director. We messed up the carpet pretty good. But it was funny, and that’s the bottom line.”

“I’m thinking of one particular kid who was extremely nervous during rehearsals when the cheerleaders came in,” Flore continued. “So now the cheerleaders are watching a rehearsal and he was just paralyzed. He couldn’t perform. But by the end of rehearsal, by production time, he completely took over the stage.”

“One time the lights kind of melted one kid’s hair dye and it ran down his face the entire show, so we had to deal with that the entire time,” Flore said.

He said the community would miss the annual performances.

“I think that the community really looked forward to our shows,” he said. “We tried to do two shows a year. Most of the years we would sell out or almost sell out every performance.”

Bouldin said the community supported the program strongly.

“We don’t have sports or anything here, so this was one of the few extracurriculars we still have at this school they could come watch,” she said.

Show times are Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.

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