Director Chad Gifford of Minot High School-Central Campus had been toying with the idea of doing "The Mouse That Roared" for quite a while and, as he said with a flourish of understatement, "This seemed like the year to do it."
"I have a huge number of new kids interested in acting, and the script allows for a lot of fun parts," he said.
And naturally he's taking advantage of the resurgent use of the phrase this summer in Minot, and his students appreciate the allusion now that they understand the origin of the expression.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Linnea Maxfield as Professor Kokintz, center, explains her ideas to, from left, Kayley Walter and Brenna Heupel as Gen. Snippet and Beston and Aaron Bateman as the President in the Minot High School-Central Campus production of “The Mouse that Roared.”
The play, opening tonight and running through Sunday, is based on the book of the same name.
"There's a cast of 35, including students doing the technical work," Gifford said. "It's the largest cast I've had that wasn't a musical.
"What I like about the script is that there are so many individual roles, everybody gets a chance to shine," he said. "I can find out who these new people are."
Gifford is not only surprised by the number of new actors he has to work with, but the number of students who came to him interested in doing behind-the-scenes work.
"More kids have shown up on Saturday mornings just to help build the set than ever before," he said.
The set is straightforward, with four distinct playing areas visible at all times. Gifford uses lighting to switch from one scene to the next.
He said he finds the 1955 Cold War story still contemporary, because it highlights how America still treats countries it does battle with.
Essentially it concerns the tiny Duchy of Grand Fenwick, ruled by Gloriana XII, played by Amanda Kraft. Grand Fenwick has one export upon which its entire economy relies, which is wine. So when an American company produces a knock-off, the tiny nation is thrown into dire financial straits.
At a meeting of the government, the prime minister, played by Maddie Thompson, thinks declaring war on America may be the way out, because that country is always so generous to the loser. When their declaration is ignored, it is decided that the tiny army (after all, the country only has a population of 6,000), under the command of Tully Bascomb, played by Ashten Warmen, will invade the United States.
They accidentally come across Professor Kokintz, played by Linnea Maxfield, who has developed the most powerful bomb in existence. Through a fluke they capture the professor, thereby actually winning the war. Aaron Bateman is the U.S. President, Kayley Walter plays General Snippet, and Brenna Heupel plays Beston.
It is a first production for Gifford's assistant director Beth Doster, an English teacher who is in her second year at Central.
"The kids are great," she said. "They're so much fun. It's so great to get out of the classroom and interact with them in a different way."
The two student directors are Chyanne Ellingson and Katie Johnson, with Jacob Larsen and Kasey Austin running the lights and sound.
Performances are today through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in Central Campus Auditorium. Tickets are $4 for students and seniors and $6 for adults.