The Butterfield-Odin Public School one-act play participants told director Joshua Altmann they wanted to compete at Jackson, despite having a missing cast member. He had to hold back tears of joy.
Altmann had initially called the competition director, saying the students would still attend, enjoy the day and take in all they could. The director said, "Well, you know, you can still do the play."
"We have two options," Altmann said to the students. "We can go and watch some good theater, or we can try to make this work."
All the students talked at once.
"The consensus was, we're going to do this," said Altmann.
On Friday, the students performed "The Absolute Most Cliched Elevator Play in the History of the Entire Universe," by Werner Trieschman, to community members and the whole school. The audience experienced a group of cliched characters–a quick-tempered biker, a spaced-out New Age woman, and an agitated pregnant woman–getting stuck on an elevator. One of the other passengers, a playwriting instructor, thinks everyone is stuck in a cliched play by an amateur playwright. As the instructor tries to identify the playwright, the elevator expands and draws in more stereotypes–over-eager cheerleaders, a goth kid who writes bad poetry, and a clown.
A few weeks ago, when the group headed to competition with an absent character, students Diana Rodriguez, Dalton Braaten, Seth Pierson, and Ryan Pierson took the lead, making sure everyone knew the plan. The group redistributed and deleted lines. One of the outcomes was the quick-tempered biker, played by Ryan, arguing multiple political issues with himself.
"This being a comedy, everyone [was] laughing," said Altman. "So, as far as I can tell, this is a huge moment for us and something to build on."
Altmann is currently the 6th-grade teacher at Butterfield-Odin. He participated in theater while in college and directed the St. James team nearly two years ago. They performed a one-act play called "The Diviners" and placed third, off by a few points for second. In July, Altmann also helps with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant, an outdoor venue in Walnut Grove. His mission statement stands as, "Anyone can enjoy the arts. The arts give a voice to those that haven't found one of their own."
"Theater is something that I know and understand," said Altman. "[It's] something I'm constantly around."
Altmann is looking at starting a drama club that meets once a week to build on Butterfield-Odin's theater program. The club would focus on the foundation of acting. A theater festival is another idea. It'd be an end-of-the-year celebration, where plays would be spread out throughout the day with a grill out.
For this year, the Butterfield-Odin one-act students learned practice is essential, "and there are ups and downs with everything," said Altmann. "The result was about as rewarding as it gets."
Cast: Seth Pierson, Dalton Braaten, Carlos Rodriguez, Mohamed Yusuf, Lexie Sykes, Gracie Hernandez, Diana Rodriguez, Luis Morales, Ryan Pierson, Sabrina Hanson, Emerson Fisch, Berenice Morales. Understudy: Anahi Morales