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New Midvale Middle theatre to open with Poe’s well-known works

Nov 02, 2017 11:38AM ● Published by Julie Slama

Midvale Middle School students rehearse movements as characters called, “The Shudders,” who personify the creepy feeling that is evoked from Edgar Allen Poe’s works, for the one-act play, “Shuddersome: Tales of Poe” that will be performed this month. (Bethanne Lenhart/Midvale Middle School)

Dark sinister gloom hangs overhead. Evil ghosts move about. The door creeks, the wind howls, a clock strikes. Suddenly a clang of alarm bells ring and the sound of beating wings get closer and closer.

These eerie sounds and sights may come alive with Midvale Middle School’s presentation of Edgar Allen Poe’s theatrical adaptation of some of his best works, including “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Raven,” “The Oval Portrait” and “The Masque of the Red Death.”

The students present “Shuddersome: Tales of Poe” at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 16 and Friday, Nov. 17 on their stage, 7852 S. Pioneer St. Theatre teacher Bethanne Lenhart directs the 45-minute one-act play. The show is free.

Lenhart selected the play to give her students a broad experience in theatre.

“I wanted the students to have a chance to work on a different genre,” she said, adding that recently students performed works by Shakespeare as well as Hans Christian Andersen. “This play gives students a chance to develop their characters and experience a different style of theatre.  Many classes in middle school cover some of these works so it gives the students a chance to bring those tales to the stage.”

Throughout the ensemble piece, The Shudders intertwine Poe’s works.

“They help to create the creepy Poe atmosphere, much like soul suckers. They’re often the voices inside the heads of other character who are going insane and inspire much of the murder in the play,” Lenhart said.

On stage, 25 students in her play productions class will perform the theatrical adaptation. Behind the scenes, two classes of stage tech, upward to 50 students, will work with props and sets. Each show night, about a dozen students will run the sound and lights, which just were installed in mid-October.

“We have beautiful capabilities to train students. It’s a wonderful opportunity,” she said.

Early rehearsals were moved into other rooms in the school, as the stage was not completed before the start of school in late August. 

Midvale Middle School opened in August, after being rebuilt for two years on the site of the former school building. The $38-milion school building features a 680-seat auditorium along with high-tech classrooms, a state-of-the-art TV broadcast room and a 3-D printing lab. 

Scaffolding and open wires on stage delayed students from blocking scenes, but Lenhart and her cast adjusted with reading the script and familiarizing themselves with parts.

“Each piece, we talked about themes like what it’s like to grieve and have loss, superstitions and their value, and the appearance with ‘The Masque.’ So it’s more than just performing a script. We pulled them together to give it more meaning, to give a greater impact,” Lenhart said.

Many students also participated in costume and mask-making workshops after school to create their own unique masks to use in the “Masque of the Red Death.”

“It’s been a really fun experience to see their characters start to take shape and the ensemble work together so fluidly,” she said.  “This will be a really spooky and fun debut show in our new building.” 

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