Nazis were milling around the Multi-Use Complex on the Camp Verde Unified School District Campus last week.
No one seemed that alarmed, neither the group of nuns to one side of the room nor the group of precocious, presumably Austrian children walking across the stage.
It was the dress rehearsal for the upcoming production of “The Sound of Music,” the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that tells the story of the Von Trapp family and their escape from the specter of Adolf Hitler’s Germany at the start of World War II.
The play is an attempt by the school district to reinvigorate the drama program, co-director Helen Freeman said. The 30 or so cast members come from across the Verde Valley and range in age from the very young to senior citizens [a fourth-grader probably wouldn’t make a convincing Mother Superior].
Some cast members have had experience on the stage before; for others, this is their first encounter with theater performance. Regardless of which camp the actors belong to, they were all experiencing the excitement and last minute scramble that goes into pulling off a successful show.
Girls on sewing machines were busy making last-minute adjustments to costumes, others were making sure tape was in the right place to mark the location of set pieces and still others were quietly reciting their lines in a corner to make sure their memorization was as close to flawless as possible.
The group has been rehearsing ever since auditions were first held in February, Freeman said. It’s been going fairly well, Freeman said, but of course in this business you’ve always got to be ready to think on your feet.
“It’s been a long experience,” said Mark Hawk, in costume for his role as Frederich von Trapp. “Things were a little confusing early on, but now it’s getting a lot easier.”
Mazzie Jasman, an American Heritage Academy fourth-grader taking on the role of Marta, already got one of the most difficult ordeals for any actress out of the way. She started rehearsals in a cast after actually breaking a leg while riding her bike.
Jasman has been in stage productions before, but she says this one is giving her “a lot bigger part.”
Freeman said she has always had some interest in the theater, based on her own experience and watching her children on stage. The group decided to give “The Sound of Music” a shot in order to put on a show that the community would know and be interested in seeing.
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Freeman said. “We want to get the community to come back and be involved with the theater.”
Aside from providing entertainment to an audience, Freeman said that acting on stage is a terrific way to help young people build self-confidence.
Megan Miller, a drama teacher in her first year at Camp Verde Middle School, is the other co-director. Miller comes from a town in Idaho where the theater was an important part of the community, and she said she’d like to see it take a bigger role here.
“The struggle here is getting the culture in place,” Miller said, adding that she was pleased to see that there was a stage with more resources than she expected when she first arrived in the Verde Valley.
Miller said that she’d like to see at least one production like this each year until a foundation could be built to possibly bring more plays to the stage.
Freeman said that since the community paid for the theater at the Multi-Use Complex, they should get some benefit from it.
The show will go on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 6, 7 and 8, at 7 p.m. at the Multi-Use Complex on Camp Lincoln Road.
Tickets sales, to help defray the costs of production, will be $8 at the door for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.
For more information, call Freeman at 567-9220 or Miller at 567-8014.