What it takes to put on a middle school musical

Bellefonte Area School District  |  Posted on

Using fog machines is cool when it comes to putting on school drama productions – except when it’s the cause of the fire alarm to sound in the middle of a show. But when it comes to preparing, Bellefonte Area Middle School drama adviser Jessica Cetnar and her students make sure they’re prepared for just about anything that happens, even a little ruckus like the fire alarm ringing.

“It’s live theatre, so we never quite know what might happen during a performance,” Cetnar explained enthusiastically. “This year we had the fire alarm go off during the first performance due to a fog machine we were using, but there can be all kinds of distractions like babies crying, someone’s phone going off, etc. We prepare the students for the unexpected by making sure they are comfortable with their parts, and then discussing how anything could happen and to think about how their character might respond in a given situation.”

When the fire alarm sounded during a show in February, Cetnar said the students did an “outstanding job staying calm and then picking right back up” where they left off once the situation was resolved.

The middle school drama club put on a four-day performance of Shrek the Musical Jr. as a way to showcase student talents and bring entertainment to spectators.

“There are lots of feature roles in the show, which gives lots of students the opportunity to have their own moment,” Cetnar said. “I also picked it for the fun music and the familiar storyline, knowing that it would be a hit with the audience.”

Shrek Jr. is an adaptation of the 2008 Broadway musical, which is based on the 2001 DreamWorks Animation film and the 1990 book by William Steig.

Preparation began in the fall with auditions in October, which required interested students to sing a song, read a script and perform a short dance sequence. That was followed by selecting a cast of 35 students and another 35 students for backstage crew, and then follow-up rehearsals several times a week after school leading up to the show February 24-27.

Cetnar said the group first began learning the music, and then learned choreography and blocking. Once performance material was set, other features were added, such as using microphones, and adding lighting, costumes, and hair and makeup designs. Students involved in the crew were tasked with designing and making costumers, along with doing hair and makeup, making props, painting set pieces, organizing backstage areas and more.