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Thespians make it up as they go along

The cast of the St. Croix Central High School play pose in their costumes. Performances are Oct. 26 and Oct. 27. Back row (from left): Rose Baker (jealous ex-girlfriend), Gabrielle Nippoldt (groom's sister), Barbie McDonald, Tyler Denni, CC Carrasco. Second row (from left): Gunnar Olson (groom's grandfather), Alex LaPitz (personal attendant), Xena VanDusartz (bridesmaid), Christian Schmitz (best man) and Nick Hammond (father of the bride). Front (from left): Katie Rohl-Benysek (mother of the bride), Sama...1 / 3
Groom Ron McDonald, played by Mitchell Donahue, kisses his "mother" Mamma Sue, played by Nicole Marek.2 / 3
The father of the bride, played by Nick Hammond, escorts bride Haley Boles. Boles plays the bride on Friday and the maid of honor on Sunday.3 / 3

The cast members of the St. Croix Central High School play are getting ready for their performances Friday, Oct. 26, and Sunday, Oct. 28. But even after months of rehearsing, their director Roxi Wakeen said she doesn't know exactly what will happen in each performance.

The play, "When Cash Meets Cow," is an improvisational dinner theater performance, and as such, there are portions of the play that the actors make up on the spot. Wakeen said there is a script for the play, but it's not your average script.

"It's kind of like having an outline," Wakeen said. "Sometimes you script it word-for-word, sometimes you script it idea-for-idea."

Wakeen said the wedding ceremony scene, for example, is completely scripted, word-for-word, but in other scenes the actors may only have a set of events that need to happen.

"There are things that will be happening that only one or two characters will know about," said Wakeen.

Not only will portions of the play be improvised by the actors during the play, the audience can affect plot twists too. In fact, Wakeen said she expects it.

"When people come to the show that have already [experienced] a show like this," Wakeen said, "they will feel free to add, and our kids will have to react to it."

There is a large-enough improvisational theater base in the area, Wakeen said, that she thinks some people will come to see the show simply because it is improvisation.

Wakeen said the students have been learning to manage their own reactions as well as the audience's.

"It has been a good learning curve for everyone in the show," Wakeen said.

The first rule of improv (short for improvisation) is learning to maintain appropriateness, she said. She said this can be especially important when dealing with high school and middle school students, who may be in the audience. Wakeen said she will often test the actors to help them practice maintaining a family-friendly atmosphere.

"I tend to say something totally inappropriate once in a while," Wakeen said, "and say 'How would you react to that?'"

Wakeen said the second rule of improv is learning to help out the other actors when they get stuck.

The improvisational skills the students are learning could also help students in other aspects of their lives, Wakeen said.

"They have to learn a certain social decorum," she said, which could be helpful in job interviews, or similar situations.

"When Cash Meets Cow" follows the story of Sophia Cash, a New York debutante, and Ron McDonald, a Hammond farmer. What the bride's mother thinks should be the wedding of the decade in New York has been moved to Hammond.

Tickets are on sale now and include the price of the dinner theater meal. Adult tickets are $10, Student tickets are $7.50 and children's tickets are $5. Tickets can be purchased by calling Nick Haug at 715-796-5383, ext. 114.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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