‘Charlotte’s Web’ Play Reaches Out to the Entire Family

Auditions were held to find the talent for this year’s play that will be performed for the community on Nov. 17-18


Loukya Vaka

(from left to right) Aicha Beye (11), Marissa Varga (10), Carmen Bickel (9), and Sophia Sikes (9) practice their group scene together during Tuesday’s auditions last week.

Loukya Vaka, Reporter

There is a new twist to the play production by Liberty Theater for this year’s fall play. “Charlotte’s Web” marks the first time that the Liberty Theater is targeting a younger, familial audience.

Junior Connor Higlen, who will be playing the role of Templeton, explained how this year’s play is significant because it reaches out towards a younger audience.

“A younger audience means more people interested in theater, and we can continue to raise young thespians,” Higlen said.

This story was decided to be portrayed so that the entire community’s families could be brought in together to watch as well as connect to the production, and so new technical aspects could be shown off in the sets and portrayal of the animal characters. 

Aicha Beye, a junior who will be acting as the second chorus, talked about how she looked forward to seeing the “technical elements come together. The set and the costumes are really exciting for me,” Beye enthused.  

The play is based off of the classic children’s book, “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White, which is set in a barn and follows the story of the friendship between Wilbur, the pig, and Charlotte, the spider who uses her skills to help save Wilbur. The play will take place on Nov. 17 and 18 in the LHS Performing Arts Center. 

Some of the main roles that were recently casted are Wilbur, the naive, sweet, and young pig who is the runt of his litter, Charlotte, the wise, caring, and selfless spider, Templeton, the conniving, supposedly selfish rat who has a good heart, and Fern, the little, human girl who stands up to injustice and wants to save her pig.

(left to right) Jared Houston (11), Connor Higlen (11), and Madeline Claravall (11) read through and practice their group scene together during Tuesday’s auditions. (Loukya Vaka)

 Senior Shane Wolz, who will be playing Homer, talked about the character, Wilbur.

“First of all, he’s a halfway main character,” Wolz said. “He’s a sweet little guy, and he just wants the best for himself and his friends, he doesn’t want to cause any trouble, and he’s a very noble little pig.”

The senior who will be playing, Charlotte, Morgan Feinstein, talked about Charlotte’s characteristics and attributes. 

“There’s a bit of a mystery to her for a lot of the show, and she’s got this calm, collectiveness to her,” Feinstein mentions. “She’s a role model to Wilbur, she’s got that motherly, comforting aspect, but she’s also this smart, intelligent character who’s a little spunky deep down.”  

Mrs. Gehrke, the theater teacher and director of the production, talked about what makes an actor/actress stand out during the audition process.

“What I’m looking for the most is people who can come in and become a character,” Mrs. Gehrke said. “Along with that, someone who is really coachable; where I can make suggestions, and I can see that they have a wide range of ability.”

(left to right) Sebastian Tabers (9), Lorelei Wise (9), and Noelle Wise (9) practice their individual monologues during Thursday’s auditions. (Loukya Vaka)

Auditions for the roles in this play were held last week on Tuesday, Sept. 6 and Thursday, Sept. 8 and many students came to try out. Freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors alike were all eager to be a part of the performance of this story.

Tyler Bugg, a freshman who will be playing the role of Gander, talked about his hopes for the play.

“I’m excited to get a sense of the theater program here at Liberty because it seems good,” Bugg said. “I came to see ‘Mamma Mia!’ last year, it was really good and a very professional production, so I am excited to be a part of it.” 

The auditions were conducted by having students come in for a first round of auditions. The auditions were oversaw by this year’s student director, Kennedy LeMaster, who is a junior. During the audition, the students had to perform two different monologues from the play for Mrs. Gehrke and Mr. Eversole, the theater audiovisual technician. After this, the students were paired up with three other people auditioning to perform a short scene from the story in front of Mrs. Gehrke and Eversole once again. This group scene is used to see how the auditioners interact and react to each other. 

After the first round was done, Mrs. Gehrke saw some actors on Friday, Sept. 9 to completely decide on the final cast. This round is called the “call-backs.” The call-backs change depending on what roles Mrs. Gehrke still needs to determine. During the call-backs, everyone stays within the auditorium and can see other actors’ performances. Mrs. Gehrke had the actors perform various scenes with each other until she settled on how she wanted to cast this show.    

After callbacks, the cast list was posted within 48 hours.

Mrs. Gehrke and Mr. Eversole conferring together while sitting in during Friday’s call-backs. (Loukya Vaka)

While auditions were taking place, applications for the play’s technical crew were sent out. This team of around 30 to 50 students works behind the scenes on the many aspects that make a story come to life on stage. The tech crew works on many different aspects of the play’s visuals and audio, including the lighting, sound, costume design, makeup, props, and sets.  

Mr. Eversole, the audiovisual technician for the theater, talked about some of the many things that the tech crew works on so that the play looks more magical. 

“We’re responsible for how all of the lighting looks, all of the sound works, whether that’s working on sound effects, sound cues, or adding in music,” Mr. Eversole explained. “There are the lights, not just the way the lights and colors look on stage, but also the positioning of those lights, and just trying to make everything that is on stage come to life.”

“The show would not happen without all of those behind the scenes people,” Gehrke comments. “They will be chosen, and will be working simultaneously during rehearsals for the show.” 

Not only will this play have students acting, but this year will also be special because child actors will also be performing on stage. The young children and family members of various staff members in the building will be playing various roles such as parts in the ensemble and the children of Charlotte. This addition adds a new type of authenticity to the portrayal of this story as well as a connection to the families in the audience. For the children who are acting in the play, this is a fun and unique opportunity. 

Mrs. Gehrke says, “It’s a priceless experience. They get to come in and be mentored by our high school students, and be accepted into the group.”

A group of students conversing together at the auditions on Thursday. (Loukya Vaka)

Five-year old kindergartner, Kyleigh Lewis, is the daughter of Mrs. Lewis, a Horizons teacher. Kyleigh is one of the child actors in this play, and she will be playing the third spider. Kyleigh loved watching the musical, “Mamma Mia!” last year, which made her even more enthusiastic to be a part of the show this year.

“I am excited to be on stage,” Kyleigh says. 

Ryan Walterbach is the son of Mr. Walterbach, a history teacher at our school, and he will also be one of the child actors in this play. Ryan is in first grade, and he is 6 years old. Ryan will be a part of the children ensemble. This will be Ryan’s first time acting on the Liberty stage and being involved in the school in such a new, special way. 

“I want to meet new friends, and I want to act,” Ryan says. “I’m excited and nervous,” Ryan also admits.

Greta Gehrke, the 7-year-old daughter of Mrs. Gehrke, is also coming back to perform in this year’s play as the first spider. Last year, Greta had a part in the musical, “Mamma Mia!” Greta is in second grade, and she is eager to be back on stage for this production. 

“I feel super duper excited! I love doing theater, and I love doing the shows with big groups of people,” Greta expressed.

(left to right) Morgan Feinstein (12), Anna Wright (12), Madeline Claravall (11), and Tyler Bugg (9) act out a scene on stage during Friday’s call-backs. (Loukya Vaka)

Theater is an art form that reaches and affects many different people, whether it be the people watching or the actors performing on stage. 

“Theater affects not just my life, but I believe it affects all lives,” Mackenzie Reddick, a sophomore who will be playing the First Fairgoer, says. “It’s almost an escape.” 

The work that goes into producing a play that transports everyone to a new world of imagination and characters starts with finding the people who will be able to transport everyone watching to a thrilling story, and this year’s theater group hopes that they will be able to do just that.

“I am hoping that people come in, they are incredibly entertained, they are wowed, they really see what Liberty theater is capable of, and they continue to support us afterwards,” Mrs. Gehrke expresses.

One thing is for sure, this year’s play will be an exciting production that is sure to be remembered for its fun storyline and characters. 

Here is the full cast list for this year’s fall play:

First Chorus: Payton Busselman 

Second Chorus: Aicha Beye

Third Chorus: Alijah Riles 

Wilbur: Anna Wright

Fern: Anna Fleetwood

Mrs. Arable: Mak Barnes 

John Arable: Jax Drezek

Avery: Holly Altheimer

Edith: Elaine Thimyan

Homer: Shane Wolz

Lurvy: Logan Honerkamp

Goose: Madeline Claravall

Gander: Tyler Bugg

Templeton: Connor Higlen

Sheep: Micki Morris

Lamb: Lorelei Wise

Charlotte: Morgan Feinstein

Reporter: Connor Smith

Photographer: Brandt Cleppe

Announcer/Loudspeaker: Jared Houston

First Spectator: Arely Perez

Second Spectator: Mason Putzler

First Fairgoer: Mackenzie Reddick

Second Fairgoer: Sebastian Tabers

Third Fairgoer: Marissa Varga

Ensemble (Judges, Spectators, Fairgoers): Ashley Cain, Alyssa Donaldson, Joey Galligan, Anna Simms, & Josephine Smith-Moreland

Uncle: Coach Wheeler & Coach Hill

First Spider: Greta Gehrke

Second Spider: Katlyn Beck

Third Spider: Kyleigh Lewis

Children Ensemble: Alyson Beck & Ryan Walterbach