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'James and the Giant Peach' at McPherson College Puts Stagecraft in Spotlight

posted Jan 11, 2012 in CAMPUS EVENTS

When “James and the Giant Peach” comes to the McPherson College stage on January 20-21, the technical aspects of the show will have a starring role right along with the actors.

Creating seven peaches of different sizes is just the start. Students have worked with the show’s director – Dr. Rick Tyler, professor of speech and theatre – to make the peaches fly out over the audience, be carried by seagull puppets and encounter sharks, clams and fish as the script calls for them.

“It’s probably been the most collaborative production in a while,” Dr. Tyler said. “I’m not sure how to do some of these technical requirements, so I ask the students. It’s truly been fun letting go and saying, ‘OK, who has ideas?’”

Two of those students coming up with ideas are Sarah Schowengerdt, sophomore, McPherson, Kan., and Grahm Mahanna, junior, Hoxie, Kan., who are collaborating to create the puppets needed for the production.

“I’ve always loved the way they work,” Schowengerdt said. “Any chance I have to work with puppets, I take it.”

Mahanna said he grew up watching the Muppets and loves the personal connection developed in live theatre for children.

“There’s a real human element added to everything we do, which I think is missing from a lot of entertainment today,” Mahanna said.

A classic of children’s literature, “James and the Giant Peach”, by Roald Dahl, follows James Henry Trotter, an orphan who is shipped off to live with his two abusive aunts. His fortunes change when he finds a peach tree that produces a fruit the size of a house. He meets intelligent insects at the stone in the heart of the peach, and the group goes off on a series of adventures, ending up in Central Park.

Tickets to all shows cost $5 for adults and $3.50 for children ages high school and younger as well as seniors. Reservations may be made by contacting the theatre box office at 620-242-0444 or at

Cast includes: Kyle Dilley, sophomore, Parker, Kan.; Isaac Levin, junior, Dighton, Kan.; Kristin Nelson, sophomore, McPherson, Kan.; Derick Chastain, sophomore, Moundridge, Kan.; Kristie Gutierrez, sophomore, Quinter, Kan.; Dusty Kitchen, senior, Oskaloosa, Kan.; Laurina Hannan, freshman, Wamego, Kan.; Jacob Patrick, sophomore, Elizabeth, Colo.; Jacee Coberly, junior, Gove, Kan.; Zach Winkle, sophomore, Goddard, Kan.; Jacob Locke, sophomore, Wichita, Kan.; Esther Jacobitz, sophomore, Muskegon, Mich.; Matraca Ewy, sophomore, Halstead, Kan.; Adam James, senior, Moundridge, Kan.; Cody Taylor, junior, Springville, Iowa; and Mark Dowdy, senior, Huntingdon, Pa.

Crew includes: Emily Donell, senior, Wichita, Kan., stage manager; Alyese Crist, sophomore, Quinter, Kan., assistant stage manager; E. H. Petropulos, sophomore, Larkspur, Colo., assistant costume designer; Ashlie Manzi, sophomore, Goddard, Kan., makeup design; Tabitha McCullough, senior, Hill City, Kan., sound; Kenyatta Harden, junior, McPherson, Kan., props; and Dowdy, Coberly and Crist, lights.

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