ATHOL — Whenever Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland needed to quickly raise money to cover an urgent “emergency,” one of them would yell, “Hey! I know! We’re putting on a show!” And in a dizzyingly short amount of time, voila! – a professional music production would magically collapse and delight an ecstatically receptive audience.
As Julie Bouchard can tell you, that doesn’t happen. Bouchard is a faculty member at Athol High School who also produces and directs the AHS Theater Department’s presentation of Shrek.
“The hardest thing for me,” Bouchard explained, “was that we lost several people who were leads and we had to replace people at the last minute who only get six or seven rehearsals.
“What is also difficult is the financing. We’re having trouble with our sound system; our speaker flashed. So keeping the theater up to date in general has been really difficult. I think we need more resources.”
When asked about Shrek’s choice, Bouchard said, “We’re trying to establish the program here, we’re trying to build it. I think doing something unknown where we don’t have access to sets, props and costumes would be very crude starting from scratch.”
Bouchard explained that she was able to borrow about 80% of the costumes and some of the backdrops from a friend, Linda Tomasi, at Eagle Hill School in Hardwick.
“So I said, ‘Everybody loves Shrek.’ It’s a family-friendly show. I’ve always been geared towards doing family-friendly shows because then people bring their kids. adults love it. It’s familiar, children know it.
“And it’s not a huge cast. It’s quite a diverse cast, meaning many of the characters can be played by either men or women. And I was familiar with that. I did the choreography and I was on the show (for another production) so I think it’s a hundred times easier to get comfortable with a show.”
Regarding the funding, Bouchard said, “We received a significant donation from Derek Zanga, that was in 2018. We withdrew from that money to pay royalties. Royalties alone are $1,300 per show. Licensing fees are probably the biggest expense.
“Of course donations to the Athol Theater Department would be great because we could certainly use them. But with COVID and all, we really didn’t have time to fundraise. Hopefully we can come back to that to get that off the ground. I mean, the theater departments are huge and it involves a lot.”
In addition to royalties, Shrek’s expenses include costumes, a professional makeup artist, and equipment rentals, Bouchard said.
Bouchard said the lobby’s proceeds from this weekend’s performances will go to the Charlie Russell Scholarship Fund, which she founded three years ago. The annual scholarship goes to a senior who has been involved in some form in the theater department of the AHS for two years. Student participation does not have to be as a performer. You might be involved in technical design, art design, lighting design or other activities.
“That’s why I encourage people to donate,” Bouchard said. “You can make it into the general theater department at Athol High School. All lobbying proceeds go to the scholarship itself.”
The curtain rises this Friday at 7pm, Saturday at 1pm and 7pm and Sunday at 4pm.
The cast of the AHS production of Shrek includes: Shrek – Joe Grant, Fiona – Alma White, Donkey – Lacey Mae Mason, Lord Farquad – Loren Bennington, Dragon – Ann DeBarros, Mama Ogre – Donna Lajoie, Papa Ogre – Jason Burns, Captain /Guard – Zander Laprise, Teen Fiona – Lilyana Robichaud, Young Fiona – Addison L’Ecuyer, Pinocchio – Tiffany Cruz, Little Bo Peep – Maya Hamilton, Pied Piper – Micaela Riel, Goldilocks – Melania Lemoine, Big Bad Wolf – Kelly Kaczmarczyk, Peter Pan – Brohden Whitney, Gingy – Bronwyn Whitney, 3 Little Pigs – Luciana Allaby, Jordyn Raymond and Stella Mason, Ugly Duckling – Nia Brito, Wicked Witch – Olivia Mason, Mama Bear – Madison Choquette, Baby Bear – Faith Mason
Production Staff: Director, Music Director and Choreographer – Julie Bouchard, Stage Manager – Cody Germain, Set Design – Laura and Jason Robinson, Lighting Design – Laura Smith, Sound – Lauren Romag and Kyra Faustin, Costumes – Sharon Euvard, Kerri Ann Mason, and Linda Tomasi, Assistant – Eliana Rivera.
Stage Crew: Manager – Cody Germain, also Sara Day, Brooke Mehigan, Shyla Barnes, Erisbel Pena, Abby Frey, Kiley Cote and Elizabeth LeClaire.
Program/Ticket Designs: Madison Choquette. Set piece/cave: Santiago Arroyo/8th grade student. Set Pieces: Alyssa Robinson, Jacob Knowles, Josh Ayles.
Greg Vine can be reached at [email protected]