Wednesday, May 12, 2021
Drama Students Learn How to Act for Film, in Addition to Stage
Frankie Duke and Dakota Countryman share a date that becomes strained over tuna fish sandwiches in a play that will be livestreamed next week. PHOTO: Karl Nordstrom
Thursday, April 8, 2021


The COVID pandemic has hampered Wood River High and Middle School theater students’ opportunities to perform before a live audience.

But what they’ve lost in traditional theater they’ve gained in other experiences.

Students learned how to put a radio broadcast together last fall as they staged H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” over radio. And now they’re learning how to act for film as they stage the drama “Our Place.”

“The biggest thing with the radio production is they couldn’t believe how professional sounded. A lot thought of doing radio, voiceover work after that. I’m hoping maybe some might be interested in doing film, commercials, after this experience,” said Karl Nordstrom, WRHS Drama and Speech teacher.

The drama will be livestreamed for four nights on the WRHS Performing Arts Theater YouTube page at 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, April 13-16. There also will be a livestreamed matinee on Saturday, April 17, at a time to be determined.

This time the students will even get the opportunity to perform before a few audience members as they perform for WRHS and Silver Creek High staff at one performance and invite parents of cast members in to see the production in person as they livestream it to the greater community.

“When so many are shut down, we’re fortunate to be able to do something,” said Nordstrom.

Terry Gabbard’s drama “Our Place” involves five different stories that take place on a dock extending into a small lake. It kicks off with a group of teenagers on a date one cool autumn night.

The next morning a young girl arrives with her father, fishing pole in hand, as she hopes to catch some sunshine a few fish and her father’s fading memories.

The next story involves a man who arrives at the dock with his family and high expectations for their family canoe trip. Problem is, his wife isn’t digging the scene, his son has a chip on his shoulder and his daughter is acting weird.

Later, an engaged couple show up to enjoy a picnic lunch until a realization about tuna fish sandwiches sends a shockwave through their relationship, making them question who they are and what lies ahead.

The final story revolves around a youth blowing off steam when his 6-year-old sister arrives—and she insists on staying with him.

Though all the stories stand on their own, their interconnectedness is revealed at the end.

“For the most part, it’s an uplifting play even though it has sad moments,” said Nordstrom. “It’s very  human-nature based, which I thought audiences would respond well to, given the year we’ve all been through.”

The simple location—that of a dock—also fit the bill since it was something beginning drama students could easily build. And it could be built out of materials the drama department already had—a plus in a year when the department can’t sell tickets to help defray the costs of the production.

Blaine County Education Foundation and Sun Valley Museum of Arts gave grants to pay for film equipment and the license to film the production.

John Plummer of John Plummer Film Productions will film the production, and he and Performing Arts film instructor Cathy Reinheimer will edit it, giving each student a DVD of the final cut.

“I thought it was good for them to have experience as film actors,” said Nordstrom. “On stage, you use  big, grandiose theater movements—you use your hands and arms to communicate. Film is not as big as the stage—it’s more subdued. Film captures the smaller things you do with your body and hands. Especially the eyes are picked up by camera.

“The students are learning that articulation and diction are more important in film than the projection of voice,” he added. “They’re learning that they have to know where the camera is and be able to recognize, ‘I can only move this far before I’m out of the shot.’ It’s a short play—just 45 minutes long—but we’re asking them to do a lot.”

Nordstrom said it’s important to have the kids perform several takes of the play, rather than just livestream it to the community one night.

“We want the actors to have more opportunities on stage. Even if they don’t have a live audience, you can easily see the difference in growth between opening and closing night. They don’t get that if they don’t do more than one production.”

Nordstrom said the most frustrating part of trying to stage a production this year is trying to keep up with the ever-changing protocols, especially since Blaine County uses different metrics than South Central Public Health District and the school district is not following the same protocols as other school districts in Idaho.

“That’s why I opted to livestream our production and play it safe,” he said. “We’re doing a lot with this short play.”


The cast features Fisher Albright, Piper Kolb, Loula Christensen, Dakota Countryman, Elena Tamayo, Edgar Vega, Ramsey Marquis, Madis Fortner, Lilia Page, Anna Wiese, Frankie Duke, Ranger Wynn and Elle Davis.

The crew is made up of Bryna Regan-Kennedy Neace, Kaia Wolfrom, Hunter Ervin, Kieran Heywood, Georgia Geagon, Christine Leslie, Cathy Reinheimer, Julie Fox, Hilarie Neely, John Valenzuela, John Plummer, Alex Lilley and Beckler Thomas.

This will be the final production for three seniors. Ramsey Marquis debuted in “Singin’ in the Rain” as an eighth-grader and went on to become a 2020 District IV Drama champion. Madison Fortner was a 2020 District IV Drama champion. And Edgar Vega has been an enthusiastic participant in the drama production.

Jumping off to an early start in this production are two middle school students: Anna Wiese and Elle Davis






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