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West Valley City Journal

Ensemble Proves Vital as ‘Into the Woods’ Caps Drama Department Year

Jun 16, 2016 08:23AM ● By Bryan Scott

The cast and director were able to put the show together in five weeks. – Kjersti Parkes

By Travis Barton | [email protected]

The woods can be a scary place, except at Hunter High. 

The Hunter High School drama department put on a production of “Into the Woods” on May 5, 6 and 9 in the Little Theatre to finish off the school year. 

“’Into the Woods’ was the perfect capstone, the perfect ending of the year,” Kjersti Parkes, drama teacher, said. 

That the production was able to go off as planned proved to be a minor miracle. 

Typically, Parkes and her students have closer to three months to prepare for a play with set design, costumes and rehearsals a few of the many tasks to be completed. They had five weeks. 

Parkes and the students held rehearsals at 6 a.m., during class and then after school until 5:30 p.m. Part of the preparation also included coming in on a Saturday to paint the set with the help of an artist who is friends with Parkes. 

“It was a pretty intense process,” Parkes said. “But it was really the group of kids. They were dedicated and professional so really kudos to them.”

Blake Hedges, a senior who played Rapunzel’s prince, said the students learned a lot about work ethic in those five weeks. 

“If we really do stay focused and put all of our effort forward we can accomplish something as great as putting on a show like that,” Hedges said.

Parkes, who is currently in graduate school for art administration, said she almost didn’t do the production due to the compressed timeframe and her schedule but the kids reaction changed her mind.

“When I told them that we might not do it, I thought they would react like, ‘we’re so mad,’ but instead they said, ‘it’s okay, we understand life is tough,’” Parkes said. “They were so gracious and lovely, I just thought ‘how can I make this happen.’”

As the final production of the year came to a close, Parkes, who directed, said it was touching to see the emotions of the cast especially the seniors who’ve been performing together for three years. 

“Just to see them have that moment where they’re getting all these accolades and crying and hugging each other, it’s those moments where you step back and go, ‘this is really cool work that we do here,’” Parkes said. 

Megahn Rees, senior, said the final production was difficult, and that was a good thing. 

“It was nice that it hurt because it meant something,” Rees said.

Everyone spending time on a Saturday to be ready for the play, Rees, said, is a testament to the unity of the group. 

“Our passion united us, we wanted certain goals and we were willing to sacrifice to get the goals we wanted,” Rees said. 

That unity was on display all year. Rees said Parkes stresses the importance of an ensemble constantly and that ensemble paid off as it won the award for Best Ensemble at the state competition for its one-act play, “Hole in the Sky,” about 9/11. The play is told from the perspective of people above impact in the World Trade Center.

“It was rewarding to throw yourself into such a seriousness and become an adult and to touch people’s lives,” Rees said.

Parkes said she loves ensemble work and to win it on the state level was a testament to its importance. 

“Don’t ever make it about you, make it about how you contribute to the whole,” Parkes said. 

Hedges said having that close spirit among the cast off the stage contributed to the quality performed on it. 

“It’s really good to know your counterpart and that chemistry is what helps create a believable scene and something that the audience will want to watch and get sucked into,” Hedges said. 

Rees said it was a special year with this group of dedicated drama students. 

“Everyone wants to be here and we accomplished so many great things,” Rees said. “Like with ‘Hole in the Sky’ and we got to mature over that and then ‘Into the Woods’ being able to put on [Into the Woods lyricist] Sondheim in a month which was crazy.”

“This was just a great year,” Parkes said.