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'The Little Mermaid' — Cast, crew give backstage view

The Morning Sun, Pittsburg, Kan. — Stephanie Potter The Morning Sun, Pittsburg, Kan.

Feb. 14--PITTSBURG -- The music began, props were placed in position and out walked the cast in full makeup and costume.

These are the things which Pittsburg High School Theater Department cast and crew pulled together on Tuesday at their final rehearsal for the production "The Little Mermaid."

The show is under the direction of Greg Shaw, with the pit orchestra under the direction of Cooper Neil and vocal direction by Susan Laushman. Tech direction is by Chuck Boyles, with cooperation from the Memorial Auditorium technical staff.

The cast had little time to focus in comparison to their last show, cast member McKenna Shaw said, because most of the cast of "Urinetown" were in Wichita in January at the Kansas Thespian Festival in Wichita, where they found out they were selected to perform at the International Thespian Festival on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Campus in June -- a first for PHS Theater.

The PHS Theatre Department is also fundraising to make it to the festival. Many of the cast, crew and musicians of "The Little Mermaid" are part of the invitation.

It will cost $45,000 to take these 50 students to the festival.

Shaw -- who is casted as Ariel -- said everyone managing to work together in between shows gives her high hopes for both productions.

"Everyone has come such a long way ... with 'Urintown's' success, it is good to see everyone come together," she said. "It is really exciting and promising."

Coming together includes the entire cast and crew.

There are between 90 to 100 headpieces and someone has to keep track of them -- the job of Hazel Harper.

"After the show, we have to hunt down all of the wigs to make sure they are all accounted for each night," Harper said.

Including wigs, most of the cast members have to change their costumes up to five or six times, she said. There are a total of 131 costumes for this production.

The "mersisters" change into to seagull, flamingo and swan costumes.

The costumes consists of inflatable bellies, furry suits and more.

"They are a lot of fun," Katie Painter said. "There are six different costumes and six different hats or wigs." Painter was casted as one of Ariel's sisters, Atina.

Alexis Daniels, also one of Ariel's sisters named Andrina, agreed.

She said they have about seven to nine minutes to change -- including an eyelash change.

Outside the hall of the dressing room, Cassie Hurt-McLarty began to have the appearance of the production's antagonist, Ursula, as she pulled on the tentacles with the help of a few other cast members.

Behind the stage were crew members.

In charge of "everything on deck" is Deck Boss Kennedy Tomasi, who also helped backstage in "Urinetown."

"Whenever mics go out, you don't even know it ... everybody is on the ball, if someone's mic is not working two seconds before they get on stage, when they go out it's just right [it works]," Tomasi said.

Assistant Stage Manager Blake Simons agreed, there's a lot which goes on and sometimes wrong the audience doesn't know because of their collaboration to make it work.

Simons -- whose role it is to move the set pieces off and on the stage -- said the best part of being in the crew is being with friends.

"It gives me more time to hand out with my friends," he said.

The makeup, costume and backstage crew are not the only groups making the production whole.

The musicians are hidden in the orchestra pit.

"The cast rely on us in the pit," clarinet and bass clarinet player Izzy Lunday said.

French Horn player Kiel O'Neal agreed and said not only does the cast rely on the musical ques, their director relies on the cast's eye contact, and the orchestra relies on the director making a full circle.

The technology crew prepared the lights, sounds and special effects.

Rachel Ruiz ran 70 slides which serve as the backgrounds of the play. She listens through a headset and communicates via microphone.

"I make sure everything is right on que," she said. "When Ariel comes on stage, I have a splash slide for right when she comes up."

The show opens to the public at 7 p.m. on Wednesday through Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday at Memorial Auditorium.

To help the cast, crew and musicians to the International Thespian Festival, people can donate via GoFundMe.com at PHS Theater to Perform Nationally, or send checks to PHS at 1978 E. Fourth St. Pittsburg, KS 66762 ? Greg Shaw. There will be future fundraising events, which will be announced through their Facebook page.

-- Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.

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