Play BHS active over summer, involving many younger students

Sarah Unruh, Editor

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This summer, a tale as old as time was told by a cast of 58 Coffey County students aged kindergarten through eighth grade.
Holly Thomsen and Michael Vander Linden, theatre teachers and directors, created a children’s theatre program run by high school students.
This year’s production was Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr. The cast was made up of students from elementary and middle school, and the crew was BHS theatre members.
Mr. Vander Linden felt that Burlington had a need for a children’s theatre program after the auditions for the 2017 spring show, Disney’s The Little Mermaid. “Over 70 kids auditioned, and we could only cast 30. There’s obviously an interest in theatre by the kids in the community, so we decided to give this summer show a try.”
He, along with Ms. Thomsen, put together a two-week program for kids to learn the show in. There were three performances, one on June 16 and two on June 17.
Freshmen Allie Schneider and Bryleigh Isch were cast as Belle and Mrs. Potts in the show, respectively. They were still considered to be eighth graders at the time of casting in early June. This was Allie’s first lead role in a show, and she wishes to continue performing her next four years of high school.
This new program not only gave younger students a chance to be on stage, but it allowed for some high school students to learn the technical side of putting on a show. Eighteen theatre members helped out with the production, with alum Noah Parker and senior Bryna Huber as directors.
“It was really eye-opening to see what Michael and Holly go through during a show,” Bryna said. “I felt so much more pressure on me than I feel on stage.”
This program also helps to give avid theatre students new skills when it comes to planning a show, something future theatre majors will be grateful for.
Ms. Thomsen and Mr. Vander Linden plan to continue a children’s theatre show every summer with the hope of drawing in many more faces to the theatre.

Gage Shetler performs “Be Our Guest” on stage during Beauty and the Beast Jr. (PHOTO: Ashley Wright)

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Play BHS active over summer, involving many younger students