TYT takes ‘Beauty and the Beast’ to the great outdoors
The Tecumseh Youth Theatre (TYT) will present “Beauty and the Beast” beginning May 20 with performances from area students in grades seven through 12.
Putting on musical theater in Tecumseh has followed a safe and comforting pattern for TYT where only the shows have changed. Determined to provide theater opportunities for students during the pandemic, the organization left the comfort of Tecumseh Center for the Arts (TCA).
“The biggest highlight is to have kids back on stage,” said producer Meggan Gerber. “We were a well-oiled machine at the TCA. We followed the same pattern every year. In this case everything was different.”
The final production of the year, normally presented in March, was moved back three months after the TYT team decided the safest and best way to present a show was outside. This big change affected the cast, crew and support team, requiring sacrifice and flexibility.
The Zoom rehearsals didn’t work for long. “We quickly realized our kids were craving to be together. Zoom rehearsals are not what makes it fun for our kids. Zoom was not giving them all the things that they need. And that’s what we are all about – giving the kids what they need and crave,” Gerber said. “We had to revamp our plans a handful of times to get where we are. It’s been a lot of work and a lot of creativity.”
After the decision was made to change live theater inside to live theater in the fresh air, the TYT team toured the amphitheater at Stagecoach Stop in the Irish Hills. “We are used to being in our home in the TCA. It’s a beautiful theater,” said Gerber. “The amphitheater is pretty rustic and hasn’t been used for a while. It’s going to be interesting. We are excited and a little nervous.”
Logistics are very different for the outdoor presentation. TYT had to create dressing rooms, provide bathrooms and bring sound equipment to Stagecoach Stop.
Having effective sound was the biggest challenge for the organization. TYT received expert help from Karen Bunch, recently retired technical director for the TCA.
“Karen has been doing sound since I was doing shows. She loves the kids and has come out to run the sound for us,” Gerber said. “She came out of retirement to sit in the elements.”
There are 31 students who make up the cast with six members on the tech crew. With youth theatre on hold for many communities, TYT has added students from neighboring communities – Ann Arbor, Lenawee Christian, Onsted and Madison – to be part of “Beauty and the Beast.”
Christian Hagen, a junior at Tecumseh High School, has the role of Belle, with Payton Sharpe, a junior at Lenawee Christian, in the role of Beast.
“There’s good chemistry with the kids. They have fun together,” said Gerber. “I think everyone is very appreciative this show is happening.”
Love for the process carried the kids through regular practices in the parking lot of Infusion Dance Studio during all kinds of spring weather. “Our kids don’t care where they are. They just love to sing and dance together,” Gerber said. “I think that everyone is just more aware of how lucky we are to be doing it. There was more energy.”
Rehearsals moved to Stagecoach Stop in the beginning of May. Working with the owners has been a positive experience and the location has been an eye-opener for the students.
“The kids think it’s hilarious because there is a lot to look at,” Gerber said. “They didn’t know the place was out there.”
Theatergoers can expect the same amazing sets onstage as for the TCA productions, just on a slightly smaller scale. “We have the most amazing team. Sue Berthelsen and Neal Garrison are doing sets. Neal owns a business in Adrian. They started building sets in his shop. They hauled pieces from his shop. They have been outstanding. You ask for something and they act like it’s normal. The set has a major wow factor.”
Elizabeth Mitchell is director for the play and Lucy Thompson is the musical director. Carol Wahl is lead costumer.
The amphitheater seating is not the same as coming to the TCA. The biggest difference is the long walk on a rough trail and up a big hill to get to the seating area. According to Gerber, there is limited handicap seating with drive up capability.
“It’s not the easiest walk to get to the theater. Wear your walking shoes and take your time,” she says.
Theatergoers should bring blankets and stadium chairs for a comfortable viewing experience during the two-and-half-hour show. There is a short intermission mid-way through the play.
Despite the rustic atmosphere, there is a clear benefit to being outside for the show. “I think it’s a great opportunity to come to an event and have space,” Gerber said.
Opening night for “Beauty and the Beast” is Thursday, May 20 at 6 p.m. There is a 6 p.m. show on Friday, May 21 and the final show at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 22. Tickets can be purchased only online at tecumsehyouththeatre.ludus.com. There will be no cash sale of tickets at the shows.