SUSSEX — Seniors at Hamilton High School didn't audition for the latest production, "Ramona Quimby," so freshmen will rule the stage Feb. 9-12 at the Hamilton Fine Arts Center.
"We have absolutely no seniors in the cast, so a lot of the freshmen had an opportunity to audition, who have an acting background; we have great quality freshmen," said Director Rachel Bauer. "It was nice to get a whole new crop of people in there who are really having fun connecting with each other and playing these really fun characters."
Based on the novel series, "Ramona" by Beverly Cleary — who will celebrate her 101st birthday in April — the classic kids tale comes alive on the stage with the boisterous and unpredictable Ramona Quimby, played by Hamilton junior Becca Blaedow, who is constantly aggravating her older sister, Beezus, played by junior Ariel Hoefler.
The set was inspired by Ramona's imagination, so the scenes were staged to resemble a child's drawing.
"Instead of building a solid house, we have back walls that are kind of like stick drawings, like a kid would draw on a piece of paper," Bauer said. "Even the sofa is built like a kid would have drawn it and colored it; everything is from her imagination.”
With more than 30 different scenes during the hour and a half production and a cast of 25 students, Bauer said it's the most complex production she's directed yet.
“It’s very fast-paced," Bauer said. "It’s all about location, and so we had so many locations to do, that we did a lot more with props and costumes. It’s also seasonal; we’re doing a whole year in third-grader Ramona’s life. We go from fall to winter to spring and summer, and back to fall, so there’s a lot going on."
The production is balanced with heavy emotion and light-hearted fun with Ramona's antics and tough situations that arise in her family; because of that, there's something for everyone, Bauer said.
She was able to channel her personal experience in this show as Bauer's two daughters are the same age as Ramona and Beezus.
"It's been really fun for me because the two primary kids in the show are the ages of my two girls at home, so I’ve had a lot of fun observing them and their interactions and putting a lot of that in the show; how they interact and how they fight even," Bauer said. "For instance, my 8-year-old doesn’t walk anywhere; she runs everywhere. It’s been fun to watch them (the actors) come into these characters that are much younger than them.”
This is Bauer's first year directing at Hamilton and her second show. Prior to her work at Hamilton, she directed at Waukesha North High School. Hamilton's drama department and access to the Fine Arts Center allows for high quality shows, Bauer said.
“Hamilton has a really talented group of kids, and their theater facility that they’re allowed access to is much better," Bauer said. "I’ve been at Waukesha North, and they just don’t have some of the technical equipment and the ability to do some of the things that Hamilton does. They have a huge production staff that are available and wireless microphones. I’m impressed with what the kids are able to do talentwise, and I’m impressed with the layers of technology on top of it that not every high school has the budget to do.”
The shows starts at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 9, through Saturday, Feb. 11, and at 2 p.m. for the Sunday, Feb. 12, performance. The Hamilton Fine Arts Center is located at W220 N6151 Town Line Road. General seating tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens. Tickets may be purchased 30 minutes before the show at the box office, at the box office on Wednesdays from 2 to 6 p.m., at Office C in the high school or online at www.HamiltonFineArtsCenter.com.