Story and photos by Josephine Bryant
*UPDATE: Due to COVID-19 and cancellations of all school activities, the SHS Spring Musical has been cancelled. Please see our Editor’s note at the bottom of this page for more information.
Every year, Stillwater High School’s drama department produces two shows: a fall play and a spring musical. For 39 years, drama teacher Lisa Larios has been inspiring students and directing shows, 19 of those years at SHS. From shows like “1984” and “Fahrenheit 451” to “Shrek” and “The Sound of Music,” Larios has led her students through thick and thin testing the limits of her students’ capabilities. The last show she will direct at SHS is “The Fiddler on the Roof” because she plans to retire at the end of this year.
Larios knew she wanted to teach by her sophomore year of high school. She says that it was her own drama teacher that encouraged her to keep trying and to branch out, and because of him she wanted to do the same for others. “The incredible students and their excitement for trying something new and maybe even a little daring. They are the best people I know that brought out the best in me,” said Larios about what she will miss most about teaching.
The spring musical has a team of four directors to make the show happen. Dana Ayers is the choir director, Kevin Zamborsky is the band/ pit orchestra director, Garett Reding is the tech theater director, and Lisa Larios is the acting director. Zamborksy has conducted twelve musicals during the sixteen years he has taught at Stillwater. “My favorite thing about pit orchestra is all of the inside moments that we get to share. Sometimes that’s watching something comical night after night that happens on stage… or sometimes even the dangers of being in the pit orchestra,” Zamborsky explained. “We’ve had a number of shows where something inevitably ended up flying from the stage into the pit, including an oversized baseball, a hula hoop, a cast member’s keys, and of course the broken bottle from last year’s show.” Directing the pit orchestra has been a big part of his time at SHS and all the things that Stillwater is able to pull off, like transforming the PAC into the concert venue from The Sound of Music.
Reding’s tech theater team transforms sets for every show. His students run the show backstage, getting props, and sets where they need to be for the actors as well as controlling the lights and sound. Tech theatre students work hard to get an opportunity to take the class more than once, building leadership skills, proving that they are responsible, and hoping to become a Tech Intern.
Dana Ayers has been directing for 35 years with this year being her eighth at SHS. The Choir Director has well over 80 shows on her theater resume. Ayers has had many memorable experiences with her choir students that she will cherish forever, such as when the choir traveled to Disney World and recorded the opening to “Beauty and the Beast” and then watched and listened to it on the big screen. “I was just overwhelmed and overjoyed at the sound of my students’ voices jumping off the screen. That was really special and a validation of my belief that SHS students are truly talented, creative, and adventurous!”
When asked why she picked this show as her last, Larios said, “‘Fiddler on the Roof’ has always been on my bucket list to direct. It is a show that has always pulled me in.” “Fiddler” is a show about a Jewish family in Tsarist Russia. Larios explains that “it [‘The Fiddler on the Roof’] centers around a family that is driven by traditions and yet are forced to accept an ever-changing world. It also makes a great statement about the resilience of family.” This production had one of the largest audition turn-outs that the highschool has seen in a very long time. The final casting was a tough decision made by all four directors, but will hopefully yield a sensational performance.
Tevye, the leading role, will be played by Junior Hayden Bauter. He is a very talented musician, playing the shot bass drum in the SHS Marching band, and singing bass in the SHS Concert Choir. He got into acting and choir his sophomore year when he enrolled in acting after a schedule change and fell in love with it. So far, Bauter has been cast in every show throughout his high school career. After graduation, he plans to go into some type of performing arts whether that be music or acting. Bauter says the show is inspiring and discusses many issues society is still afraid to address. “I believe in this cast and their ability to do it justice,” said Bauter.
Senior Jenna Ranson will play Golde. She is involved in many organizations at the high school and holds several leadership roles as well. As the Senior Class Vice President, Beta Club President, Stillwater Makes a Change Grant Writer, Drum Major of the SHS Marching Band, first bassoon in the Wind Ensemble, and an employee at Chick-Fil-a, Ranson has many responsibilities that she juggles and still manages to make time for acting. Ranson started acting at a young age in third grade when she auditioned for the Missoula Children’s Theater. After graduation, Ranson plans to attend college for music education. “I appreciate the family dynamics that ‘The Fiddler on the Roof’ illustrates and the powerful, raw familial love that the characters have for one another.”
Very rarely, a student manages to be cast in all six shows that the high school puts on throughout their high school careers. “The Fiddler on the Roof” will mark SHS senior Kryslin Sherer’s sixth show. When asked what made her try out for every show and how has being in every production throughout high school affected her, she answered simply. “Being in every show has given me a consistent group of friends that I have been able to rely on throughout my time at SHS. The constant encouragement from my classmates and Mrs. Larios to keep trying and the joy I have felt from each production kept me auditioning.”
From rehearsals starting in January to the final performances in May, the 47 cast members of this show work four to sometimes six days a week running the show, learning music and choreography, building sets and costumes, and creating a phenomenal show for the public to see. “The Fiddler on the Roof” will open Thursday, April 30th at 7:30 p.m. at the SHS Performing Arts Center, with performances May 1st and 2nd at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 3rd at 2:30. Tickets are available for $8.00 from any cast member or can be purchased at the door.
*Editor’s Note: Shortly before uploading this issue to the printer, we received notice that due to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic, schools statewide would be closed until April 6th when the situation would be re-evaluated. At the time of printing, we had not received notice that the SHS production of “Fiddler on the Roof” would be postponed or cancelled but we were aware that given school closure, it could be a possibility. We chose to run the original story as submitted in an effort to highlight students’ countless hours of work in rehearsals as well as to raise awareness about these talented performers and how important the arts are in education.