For their final show of the year, Bayfield High School student actors have been tasked with digging deep into their emotions with their production “Bright Star.”
Written by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, “Bright Star” is the story of love and redemption set in the American South during the 1920s and ’40s. The story is told through Alice Murphy, who is a young girl at the beginning of the show, and later she becomes a literary editor.
For BHS theater director Sarah Ripley, the choice of “Bright Star” was twofold: “First of all, it’s written by Steve Martin, who is a comedian I have liked since I was a child. And second, it’s the first dramatic musical that Bayfield has ever put on. It’s pushed the limits of my actors quite a bit.”
And what’s cool about the production is the fact that a typical orchestra was replaced with a nine-piece bluegrass outfit, complete with stand-up bass, accordion, mandolin, cello and fiddle. Three students play in the band and the rest are Bayfield School District faculty members (and a student-teacher plays, too).
“The music is just beautiful,” Ripley said. “It’s more of a homey kind of bluegrass band. It’s pretty crazy how we’ve all come together to create this awesome performing arts opportunity for these kids.”
Ripley said one of the challenges of staging “Bright Star” is the fact that because Bayfield is such a small town, she has to share her actors with other activities – students are also athletes and in band, so getting everyone together for rehearsals can be tricky.
But along with the challenges come the good, Ripley said, adding that the parents have stepped up to help with whatever the production needs – they have volunteered to help build the sets, shop for costumes and feed the cast and crew this week during late rehearsals.
“One awesome thing is the parents have been extremely supportive,” she said. “It’s just amazing to be a part of a community where parents are such go-getters. I say, ‘I need a steering wheel,’ or whatever I need, and they’ll rise to the occasion.”
And for the students in the play, they said they are taking away a lot more from their characters than just a fun time on stage.
Senior Makaelah Hutchins, who plays Florence in “Bright Star,” said she sees a lot of herself in her character, who is very invested in her friends and loves to read.
For her, “Bright Star” has taught her a bigger life lesson.
“You get to learn about how difficult times help you progress into a better person,” Hutchins said. “It’s just a great experience.”
Senior Weslee Blakeslee plays Dr. Norquist in “Bright Star,” and for him, having the chance to play a character who is different from him – how Norquist interacts with people and how he talks – is a challenge Blakeslee said he enjoys.
“I love how I can express myself in a different and new way,” Blakeslee said. “It’s fun to get into a different character and interact with friends that I know but just as different people – we get to create art together, and it’s a very fun and creative experience.”
“Bright Star” will open this weekend in Bayfield.