by Sarah Einselen News editor
---- — FULTON — For the first time in eight years, students are taking the Caston stage for a high school play.
Caston High School students will perform “Alice in Wonderland” today and May 2 in an effort to bring back the school’s annual stage productions. About two dozen students, including four foreign exchange students, are donning trippy costumes for a fanciful leap into Wonderland based on the children’s book by Lewis Carroll.
The high school play “used to be a big deal,” recalled Shelly Sarver, the Caston kindergarten teacher who’s tasked with directing the play. “Everybody wanted to be in it.”
A 1989 Caston graduate, Sarver has taught at Caston School Corp. for the last seven years. The high school hadn’t put on a theatrical production in that time, she said. As far as Principal Adam Strasser can determine, the last play took place eight years ago.
“We’ve had kids that have wanted to do it,” he explained, but “we just haven’t had staff to lead it.”
Students tried to relaunch the school play two years ago without success. Some in today’s production recall trying to drum up support, only to have few students show up for auditions.
“I tried to get my dad to direct, ... but we just didn’t have the people,” Anna Brown said.
Brown and other students didn’t give up, though. Early this year, they began meeting independently with a few school staffers sitting in, just until they could find a teacher to act as adviser for the unofficial drama club.
That’s where Sarver came in. Mother to Addison Sarver, a high-school sophomore who’s also in the play, Sarver had no acting or directing experience herself but had helped behind the scenes in a variety of productions Addison had participated in. She volunteered to direct a play if students showed up to auditions.
“I figured if I can control kindergarteners, I can surely control [drama students],” Sarver said, laughing.
Caston speech pathologist Paige Woodhouse, a veteran of about 20 Junior Civic Theater and Logansport High School theatrical productions, volunteered to help Sarver.
At the February auditions, 24 students tried out. Each one received a part in the production, and school staff stepped in for a couple of roles — including Strasser. After he volunteered to fill a small role, he ended up being led onstage in chains as the Knave of Hearts, arrested for having stolen the Queen’s tarts.
“I was so happy that she was doing the play that I told the director that if not enough kids showed up, I’d be willing to take a role,” Strasser said, chuckling. “I should’ve known what would happen when I said that.”
Brown, 18, took on the role of Alice, the young girl who jumps down a rabbit hole into a dizzying world of talking animals, chess pieces and playing cards. It’s the latest of a dozen roles the high school senior has filled since appearing in a Junior Civic Theater production in first grade.
She’s joined by juniors Tim Kieninger and Trey Doan, 17-year-old chums who portray the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, respectively, and by 16-year-old Addison Sarver as the White Rabbit she chases down the hole.
They and other cast members say it’s been exciting to resurrect the school’s theatrical productions — “everybody getting together and saying, hey, we’re going to do this,” in Tim’s words.
Strasser said the school is already planning to have a high school production next year. One cast member suggested it might be hard to beat this year’s.
“This isn’t just a comeback play. This is setting the bar for future plays,” Addison said.
And they’re proud of that.
“Caston brought it back,” Brown said. “We are the ones that brought it back.”
Caston High School’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” opens at 7 p.m. today in the school’s cafeteria, 9815 S. Ind. 25, Fulton. Tickets are $5 for adults or $3 for students. Another performance will take place at 7 p.m. May 2.
Reach Sarah Einselen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-732-5151.
If you go: WHAT: Caston High School production of "Alice in Wonderland" WHEN: 7 p.m. today and May 2 WHERE: Caston High School cafeteria, 9815 S. Ind. 25, Fulton COST: $5 for adults or $3 for students Cast members Student cast members include Anna Brown, Addison Sarver, Michael Smith, Bethany Berry, Taylor Fenstermaker, Tierney Rentschler, Katie Henry, Madison Taylor, Morgan Clupper, Jonathan Williams, Joe Cattin, Jose Protta Vasconcellos Pinto, Russell Mullins, Angel Williams, Alix Hayden, Tim Kieninger, Trey Doan, Bobby Kite, Jenna Mangum, Nathan Wilson, Tahiti Ferreyra, Ariel Gastao, Marlena Woods and Rodrigo Martinez..