Beauty and the Beast enchants Hornet Country

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Wauzeka-Steuben students took on roles in their rendition of “Beauty and the Beast,” which played in front of audiences in the beginning of November. (Submitted photos)

A Wauzeka-Steuben fairy tale

 By Steve Van Kooten


It’s a tale as old as a time, a song as old as rhyme, a familiar story of a young woman who is held captive by a monster and falls in love. There have been movies, plays, cartoons, television series and books that have re-told it again and again. Sometimes, the beast is an square-jawed actor with hair glued to his face and other times he’s realized with oil paints on an animator’s desk. And from Nov. 9-11, the story was brought to life again, conjured up by the students at Wauzeka-Steuben School District for their rendition of the beauty, the beast, and everything in between. 

Approximately 30 percent of the school district’s student population were involved in some capacity with the production.

Shawn Zeeh, Wauzeka-Steuben’s Middle School Social Studies Teacher and the musical’s Director, has helmed four productions for the school, which have presented a number of challenges such as choosing proper source material, logistical issues and spatial concerns.

“When selecting a musical each year, we look at the interest and number of potential student participants. We choose plays that can accommodate a large cast,” Zeeh said. He also stated even though lead roles are auditioned, every interested student is guaranteed a part.

Wauzeka’s school has also created some interesting challenges: it doesn’t have a designated space for arts and theater, so the Doll Gymnasium had to be converted into a stage and schedules had to be managed around athletic practices. Much like the students, the gym had to transform to fit its role, dressed in a costume of lights, platforms and set pieces for the actors.

Zeeh said many of the regular cast had been in previous productions, including Paul Krachey, senior, who has played Pumba in “The Lion King,” The Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz,” and Augustus Gloop in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” before heading up this year’s musical as The Beast. Others set foot on the stage for the first time, much to Zeeh’s delight. “It’s also exciting to see the students, who have never been in a play before, decide to give it a try and love it.”

The process of putting out a musical is strenuous for the cast and crew; it’s a cooperative effort that requires the discipline to listen to others and still maintain a clear creative path. It’s an experience that can bring people of different ages and backgrounds together. “We always say that our Hornet House cast and crew is a family. No matter the grade level, we share in the experience, the success, the mistakes and the adventure,” Zeeh said.

Zeeh called the end of each production’s run “bittersweet” because there is relief when the last curtain has been called down and a sadness that their time is up. The cast and crew, which have shared so much in a short time frame, will never be exactly the same again; some will return for another production, others will move on to college, to adulthood.

“Every year I am amazed at the talent and excitement these students bring to the stage as they transform into their characters. It’s a great experience with lifelong memories,” Zeeh said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the hard work and dedication the cast and crew put into make these shows amazing.”

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