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Theater students stage challenging dramas ‘Steel Magnolias,’ ‘Terra Nova’

STEEL MAGNOLIAS cast, from left, are Sara Zeman (Shelby), JoJo Summersett (Clairee), Truvy (Freya Chase), M’Lynn (Lauren Church), Annelle (Katelyn McAllister) and Ouiser (Ella Van Cott).

Photo by Trisha Walker
STEEL MAGNOLIAS cast, from left, are Sara Zeman (Shelby), JoJo Summersett (Clairee), Truvy (Freya Chase), M’Lynn (Lauren Church), Annelle (Katelyn McAllister) and Ouiser (Ella Van Cott).


TERRA NOVA cast, from left: Bowers (Aidan Tappert), Wilson (Liam Baker), Scott (Paul Hargrave), Evans (Ryan McEuin) and Oates (Cooper Case) lug their sled across the ice.

On the surface, the Hood River Valley High School Theater Department’s two winter plays — Steel Magnolias and Terra Nova — seem vastly different.

One takes place in a hair salon in the 1980s, the other at the South Pole in the early 1900s. One cast is all female, the other male — with one female role. One features a Southern community, the other British explorers. And one is a work of fiction, while the other is drawn from letters and journals.

Digging deeper, the overarching themes of friendship and support, pain and loss, binds the two together. Fitting, since both run congruently starting this weekend.


Steel Magnolias: March 2, March 10 and March 16 at 7 p.m., and March 3 and March 11 at 2 p.m.

Terra Nova: March 3, March 9 and March 17 at 7 p.m., and March 4 and March 10 at 2 p.m.

Both shows play at the HRVHS Bowe Theater. Tickets are $8 for students and $10 for adults — or $12 for students and $15 for adults to see both.

It’s ambitious to attempt two plays at once — let alone these two, with their gripping, emotional scripts and completely different set needs — but longtime HRVHS theater teacher Rachel Harry, who directs both, knew her students were up to the task.

“Both plays are a challenge for the teen actor to attempt,” she said. “I have a stellar group of seniors who I thought needed this challenge. There are a few juniors in the mix, and they (are) also incredibly capable.”

The two feature small, well-seasoned casts: For Steel Magnolias, Lauren Church (M'Lynn Eatenton), Freya Chase (Truvy Jones), Ella Van Cott (Ouiser Boudreaux), JoJo Summersett (Clairee Belcher), Katelyn McAllister (Annelle Dupuy) and Sara Zeman (Shelby Eatenton Latcherie); for Terra Nova, Westlake Cannon (Amundsen), Aidan Tappert (Bowers), Paul Hargrave (Scott), Cooper Case (Oates), Liam Baker (Wilson), Ryan McEuin (Evans) and Aleeyah Enriquez (Kathleen).

While the casts are small, the plays require large technical support.

“I had the perfect storm of a number of rock star seniors who work backstage, and they ran rehearsals when I was working with the other cast,” Harry said. “I also wanted to play with the idea of designing a set/lights that could be switched in an hour to accommodate the performance schedule. Professional theaters do this all the time. I have a class just as devoted to technical theater and I wanted the students to experience this.”

She describes her crews as “stellar.”

“I have a number of seniors who took the newbies under their wings to train,” she said. “... I have a senior tech person in most of the positions for one of the productions, and a freshman in that same position in the other play. They collaborated a lot and thus not only learned by watching but learned by doing.”

She kept the crews separate so they could focus on just one production, “but a few students managed to get into both —Sadie and Sage Fetkenhour, Ash Vaday.”

Though each play is complex in its own way, and each features separate casts and crews, Harry said the best part has been seeing her students learn to trouble shoot and problem solve as a group.

“At times I felt left out, sitting in the house watching them turn to each other rather than me, their noble leader! But really, that is my goal, to have students who can mount a professionally executed full length production on their own,” she said.

Harry fell in love with both plays in the 1980s, she said, and, along with Fiddler on the Roof, which she directed in the fall, are productions that she’s wanted to direct, “if only to place my personal concept on them,” she said in her director’s notes, “… and pondered how to get these onto a high school stage, particularly Steel Magnolias and Terra Nova.”


WHEN SHELBY has a diabetic episode at the hair salon, Truvy, mother M’Lynn and Clairee jump into action.


M’LYNN and Truvy share a heartfelt talk near the end of the play, while Annelle looks on.


Truvy adds baby’s breath to Shelby’s hair on her wedding day.


SCOTT and his rival, Amundsen (Westlake Cannon), discuss their differing philosophies during their race to the South Pole.


IN A FLASHBACK, Scott remembers a meeting with his future wife, Kathleen (Aleeyah Enriquez).


Bowers and Oates talk during a resting period while medic Wilson takes notes.

Cast and Crew

Steel Magnolias

Truvy, Freya Chase

Annelle, Katelyn McAllister

Clairee, JoJo Summersett

Ouiser, Ella Van Cott

M’Lynn, Lauren Church

Shelby, Sara Zeman

Stage manager, Sullivan Cannon

Assistant stage manager, Ash Vaday

Props, Sarah Hamada

Runner, Emilia Emerton

Grips, Wyatt Brownlee, Austin Norton, RaeAan Rhodes

Light board, Hannah Roser

Light book, Max Spears

Sounds effects, Matilda Kahler

Change crew, Sophia Mata and Maria Sandoval

Terra Nova

Scott, Paul Hargrave

Amundsen, Westlake Cannon

Kathleen, Aleeyah Enriquez

Bowers, Aidan Tappert

Oates, Cooper Case

Wilson, Liam Baker

Evans, Ryan McEuin

Stage manager,

Zach Barbour

Assistant stage manager,

Julia Ortiz

Props, Erica Matthisen

Runner, RaeAan Rhodes

Light board, Nicholas Spezia-Shwiff

Light book, Stella Waag

Digital images operator, Zack Amsberry

Sound effects, Aleyah Klapprich

Change crew, Sophia Mata, Maria Sandoval


Director: Rachel Harry

Set design: Jeff Lorenzen (Steel Magnolias), Rachel Harry (Terra Nova)

Building crew: Jeff Lorenzen, Paul Hargrave, Zach Barbour, Ash Vaday, Thomas Lovejoy

Prop Design: Brooklyn Williams

Lighting design: Rachel Harry

Soundscape/music for Terra Nova: Duncan Krummel

Poster design: Tay Camille Lynne

Terra Nova Sled: Thomas Lovejoy

Program design: Jayce Tappert

Costume design/mistress: Kathy Peldyak

Make-up, Terra Nova: Lauren Church, Sara Zeman, Christine Marquez, Onika Rutherford, Sadie Fetkenhour, Sage Fetkenhour

Make-up, Steel Magnolias: Tay Lynne, Sadie Fetkenhour, Sage Fetkenhour


Steel Magnolias crew


Terra Nova crew


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