Column: Generations of actors have delighted us

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From the Eclectic Mind of Roger VanHaren

Roger VanHaren

Last week, Marilyn and I had some opportunities to see a couple of performances which sent us back-pedaling into our memories of our own high school years.

The first show was an elaborate Madrigal Feast at Kettle Moraine High School, where our grandson Nolan is a sophomore. The “Feast” is an annual production of the high school, and it involves a number of choirs and a couple of hundred students who recreate a Renaissance dinner — complete with elaborate costumes, authentic music, a catered meal, a pillary, swordfights, a court jester, a short play and dances. Nolan was a member of the Madrigal Singers and one of the other big choirs, and he had a few lines in the short play.

When Marilyn was in high school, she was a four-year member of the Madrigal Singers at Oshkosh High School, so this fun evening was a pleasant trip down memory lane for her.

The second performance was also at Kettle Moraine. It was a one-act play festival, featuring several student-directed one-acts, and two “competitive” faculty-directed plays that were entered into the state forensics association’s one-act play contest. Nolan had a role in the play, which had qualified for the state competition coming up this week.

Flashback time for me! I was a cast member of two contest plays in high school. My junior year, we did a play called “The Informer,” directed by Miss Marion Felix. My Oconto Falls readers might recognize the names of my cast-mates from that show: Tom Lutz, Connie Lutz, Bonnie Matheys, Janice Moede, my cousin Larry Curran, Hartley Nelson and Franklyn Loberger. That was 63 years ago and my memory isn’t good enough for me to recall what the play was about, but I know it was not a comedy. I remember that we did OK in the regional level, but I’m not sure if we progressed beyond that.

In my senior year, we moved on to state in the competition, but I can’t even remember the name of the play (and it isn’t named in our yearbook!). Miss Felix directed this play, too. My cast-mates that year were Connie Lutz, Carol Wirtz, Diane Messman, Donna Spice, Charlie Garnier, Franklyn Loberger and – again – my cousin Larry Curran.

My love for theater and acting was born and developed in those wonderful experiences in high school, and I am grateful that I was given the opportunities I had.

Sadly, many of the people who shared the stage with me in those two plays are no longer with us, having died much too young.

Our granddaughter Melanie is also a performer in high school plays, and her little sister Stephanie has also started to do some ensemble work in middle school. It’s a real pleasure for us to get to see all of grandkids on stage, since the stage has given us so many wonderful memories. We can live vicariously through their experiences and bask in the glow of their successes.

“All the world’s a stage …”

Contact Roger VanHaren at