After 3-year hiatus, MP swings back into theatre

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Messenger photo by Renee Gannon

Members of the cast of “Swing,”Madison Plains’ fall play, include: (front row, from left) Sarah Hann, Colleen Stuart, Arielle Smith, Angelica Cooley, Cecilia Ridenour, Lynette Cooley; (back row) Matt Gore, Jordan Bivens, Jonathan Francis, Adam Fletcher, Matt “Wilbert” Cline and Tommy Taylor. Taylor Garnes, Katy Hutchinson and Tessla Crabtree are not pictured.

A 2005 graduate of Madison Plains High School is executing a plan to bring theatre back to her alma mater. Roger and Hammerstein’s musical play, “Swing,” is Katie Manns’ first shot at directing a production at Madison Plains. Perfor-mances are set for Nov. 9-11.

Manns and the production’s cast are rolling out the red carpet by performing a blend of dance, drama and music that will take their audience on a tour of the Swing era.

“This is a big deal for everyone,” Manns said. “This is the first play that the school has held in three years, and the kids are absolutely 100 percent excited about bringing theatre back to Madison Plains High School.

“The kids even had t-shirts made that say ‘Swing 2007: Bringing Theatre Back,’ and that is what they want to be known for.”

Manns’ inspiration for taking on the challenge was the fact that Madison Plains did not have a play her senior year due to budget cuts for extracurricular activities in the school district.

“It just got to me, you know?” she said.

It was during her high school years that Manns realized theatre was her greatest passion.

“I loved it so much that I wanted other kids to have the opportunity to see what I see and to have a chance to experience theatre,” she said.

Manns attends Wilmington College where she is majoring in theatre and education with a concentration in art. She also is starring in a William Shakespeare play that will be held at Wilmington the weekend of Nov. 16.

Manns said she will not receive credit toward her college degree for directing “Swing,” but added, “I am doing it for the kids. Sometimes I am so busy that I wonder what I have gotten myself into, but upon reading the kids’ biographies, I realized how much the play means to them.”

With tears in her eyes, Manns continued, “The kids wrote about how important it is for them to bring theatre back and it makes me realize why I am here and why I am doing this. To see the excitement in their faces really makes my day.”

When asked if the students were ready for the performance, Manns said they have been rehearsing for about seven weeks.

“It was my job to give them the tools, and they have ran with them. And when it comes down to my standards, I am very, very proud of them. They all mean a lot to me. The kids keep saying how much they have learned, but they have also taught me a lot about myself.”

The dance era for which “Swing” is named developed between the 1920s and the 1940s. The plot takes place during World War II in a Savoy ballroom setting where music raises the morale for soldiers and makes way for love, dance and adventure.

Matt Cline serves as the production’s stage manager and plays the role of Scott.

“Scott is a guy who goes off to the army, and while other guys are hooking up with new girls, Scott has a hard time adjusting because he misses his girl back home,” Cline said.

The high school senior said rehearsals have been fun, and he considers himself a trendsetter when it comes to how the cast will make their grand entrance.

“It was my idea to have a red carpet entrance with a limo drop-off. Right now it has all been fun and games but when there is an audience, it will be different,” he said.

Cecilia Ridenour, who plays the role of Ann and is a main singer in the show, said this is her first time singing.

“Even though I am a bit nervous, I have been working with the choir director and practicing a lot,” she said. “This is my senior year, and it’s a whole new experience for us all. It’s Katie’s first experience directing, and we are all really close and having a good time. We don’t expect everything to be perfect but most important, we are having fun.”

Senior Matt Gore is a main singer, too, and he plays the role of Everett.

“I sing, ‘Throw That Girl Around,’ and it seems to be a big hit. My character is running late for a date and passes by some people who are having a good time, and he gets caught up in all the action,” Gore said.

“I think we can pull it off and make a great play out of it all. This play will be the foundation of great things to come. I have total faith in our crew, our cast and our director.”

Senior Lynette Cooley plays the role of Laura.

“Laura is a sheltered girl who really wants to swing but is too shy to break out and dance, but eventually she is persuaded and finds herself really letting it go,” Cooley said.

“We have amazing people working with us. Katie has so much going on in her life, and she still makes time for us. We are so fortunate that she came back to do theatre with us,” Cooley added.

“Swing” will be performed at Madison Plains High School at 7 p.m. Nov. 9, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Nov. 10, and 1 p.m. Nov. 11. Tickets are $5 for students and senior citizens and $7 for adults. Additionally, reservations are available for tables that seat up to five people for $30. Interested persons may e-mail Katie Manns at kmanns@wilmington.edu to reserve a table.

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