A flare for the dramatic at Rifle High School | PostIndependent.com

A flare for the dramatic at Rifle High School

RHS Drama Club honored at 55th annual Colorado State Thespian Conference in Denver last month

Rifle High School Drama Clubs production of Matilda last fall earned the club a trip to Denver for the annual ThesCon and a performance at the Bellco Theater last month. (Theresa Hamilton)

Every year, Colorado Thespians selects two schools to present their high school production during ThesCon in Denver.

For the first time in club history, Rifle High School was selected for its production of the modern musical “Matilda.”

The idea for the musical began when a couple of students attended a production of “Matilda” on Broadway and fell in love.

“It’s been something that’s been kind of floating around the club for a couple years, kids singing songs and talking about it. The second it came available we decided to go for it,” third-year drama teacher David Van Alstyne said.

David Van Alstyne

“It’s a pretty unique show and has a good message that kids can still change the world and stand up for themselves.”

Months in the making

Van Alstyne said they secured the rights to “Matilda” in December of 2018. The club didn’t officially start working on the production until August of last year.

“I did a lot of managing when we first started the show … making sure everyone had their line and the blocking,” RHS senior and stage manager Jean Niederkorn said.

After weeks of set design and construction, along with rehearsals from August to October, the club presented six performances at the high school from late October through the first weekend of November.

“Once the show began and they were off book, it was making sure all the cues were in place; knowing when lights were going up, sound and spotlights, and making sure those were all on time every single time,” Niederkorn added.

Jean Niederkorn

Van Alstyne was very thankful for the community members who came out and supported the show. 

“Our last one was sold out to where we were lining up chairs and we had to eventually close the place because of fire code reasons,” Van Alstyne said.

Successful state audition

During the productions run, the club invited an adjudicator from Colorado Thespians to take in the show.

“They sent someone over from Denver to watch the show and take notes, and we also submited online,” Van Alstyne said. “We sent everything in, including set designs and a video of the first half hour of the show.”

When Van Alstyne and the club found out they were selected, the fun really began.

As part of being selected, the club would have to perform their production twice during the 2019 Colorado State Thespian Conference last month.

They had to practice setup and tear down as they prepared for the show, which would be on a stage five times bigger than the stage at RHS.

“We pretty much had to go through and restage the entire show on the bigger stage, so we moved everything out into the cafeteria and then we practiced setup and tear down and loading into our trailers,” Van Alstyne said.

Niederkorn said it was really exciting to be selected, It was a lot of work. During that time she said she would average 6-7 hours of work after school to make sure the show was ready.

“I had a lot of late nights at the school just because I wanted to give my 100 percent for the show,” Niederkorn said.

She added that when they first began it was definitely chaos, but as they practiced it became more organized chaos.

The conference was held Dec. 12-14, with the club performing two performances — one for 2,500 students during the day and then their opening night performance.

“The performance itself is really the peak of Colorado Theater — it’s winning state,” Van Alstyne said. “We performed for an audience of 5,000 people, as part of the opening ceremonies, so we had every theater kid from the state of Colorado there watching us.”

After being honored for their fall production, Van Alstyne and the club are not sitting idle, as they kick off the new year wanting to grow the club and interest more students to join.

Program growing

The club has more than tripled since Van Alstyne came to Rifle three years ago with nearly 70 students in the drama club.

“We have our spring play coming up. It won’t be a musical; it will be all acting,” Van Alstyne said.

Auditions for the production of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Nile began on Monday.

Van Alstyne said it is a smaller production, with more serious acting for some of the veteran students.

The club will end the school year with student-directed one acts. Van Alstyne said they are a little more laid back. The students get to try their hand at leading a cast of their peers.

In the fall, the students plan to do another musical, but are still deciding what they want to do.

“We are thinking something more classic, since ‘Matilda’ is a more modern musical,”Van Alstyne said.


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