BCMS presents 'Mystery at Shady Acres'
There was plenty of intrigue, a healthy dose of investigative rivalry, and a few fun surprises in the Buffalo Community Middle School play last weekend.
Nineteen cast members and four tech crew students performed “Mystery at Shady Acres” at the Discovery Center auditorium under the instruction of Debb and Greg Bestland. A pair of shows were held, one on Friday evening and the second on Saturday afternoon.
“This is my first time in a play. It’s been so much fun,” said eighth-grader Payton Hutchcraft, who plays a demanding hotel owner eager to make a good impression on her wealthy customers. “I joined because I was looking for something to do. Middle school is a time to try things and find out who you are. I think I will be staying in theater. I’ve had a great experience with the Bestlands and met so many new people. It’s just been great.”
Debb Bestland said it was a push to prepare, as rehearsals only started around the second week of December. With illnesses, Winter Break and one week less than usual to prepare, the group had its work cut out for it, but the cast and crew were up to the task.
“Things went really well,” she said. “The part that made my theatre heart happy was the way they worked together backstage. If someone forgot a line or dropped a prop, others were there to encourage them. They were lined up in a row folding towels after the scene where Basil brings on the load of towels. That’s the part I like best, the friendships, the encouragement, the community that is created when we come together to tell a story!”
On the final day of rehearsals before the performances, a few other cast members shared about their experiences with the show.
Eighth-grader Wyatt Florell, who played the scapegoat bellhop Basil, said the preparation process really took off when the group was able to begin practicing in the Discovery auditorium.
“What I’m loving the most is just the atmosphere, the fun-loving happy atmosphere of the cast and crew,” he said. “And of course it’s always a joy to work with the Bestlands.”
Florell is not new to theater, having performed in last year’s “Sherlock Holmes” production and a Prairie Fire Theatre show as a younger student, but he encouraged others to try it out for the first time.
“You get a really fun experience,” he said. “It’s pretty much like playing pretend, except it’s official. Your character can be whatever you think, set in the criteria of the school and the director’s vision, of course. My character, for example, wasn’t supposed to have an accent, but I gave him one. It can help with stage fright and give you performance experience, and just help you with confidence overall. Just getting up on stage in general is a massive achievement, especially if it’s your first time.”
Seventh-grader Gabriella Broadhead, who played the role of the lead investigator, said she felt well prepared for theater performances at BCMS because of experience doing multiple shows at Montrose Elementary School of Innovation during her elementary years.
“I really love getting to be a leader and I really love the character that I am this time,” she said. “In all the plays I’ve done I’ve always been the damsel in distress, so now it’s fun learning how to play a different kind of character.”
The chance to portray an individual closer to her own style has been particularly enjoyable.
“I like incorporating my own personality into it. I get to be sassy and roll my eyes all I want and I won’t get in trouble for it,” she said with a laugh. “I’m a professional at doing that.”
Debb Bestland said the students were particularly dedicated to their craft this winter.
“The kids have been super – just responsive, listening, participating, having fun with it,” she said. “When we give them instructions they are quiet and listening, which isn’t always the case with middle schoolers. It is just a really, really good group of kids, and they’ve been really fun.”
Helping with the production this year were three ninth-graders who took part in last year’s play and returned as mentors to help their younger colleagues succeed. Kyler Jaunich, Isaac Ryder and Annika Rasset made various arrangements, worked with students to develop their characters, managed backstage operations, and more. Jaunich even filled in for Broadhead for the Saturday show, which she missed due to an honor band event.
“They have been amazing. I can’t say enough good things about them,” said Bestland.
The high school one act ensemble also played a part in helping prepare for the show, as students and director Tracy Hagstrom Durant provided costumes and other set pieces. BCMS staff member Katie Pitchford also helped out at rehearsals, dispensing encouragement and advice.
“It’s been really amazing how many people have been willing to pitch in and help,” said Bestland.
- Click here to see photos from the ensemble’s dress rehearsal performance.