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Playmakers’ final bow at Central Campus

Charles Crane/MDN Members of the Central Campus Playmakers rehearse their curtain call with director Aaron Michels prior to a matinee performance before their classmates Wednesday afternoon at Minot High Central Campus..

After nearly 100 years of productions at Minot High School Central Campus in Minot, Central Campus Playmakers will be staging its final production at the campus.

With the knowledge this would serve as the final production for the Central Campus Playmakers before students move over to Magic City Campus or the new Minot North campus in the fall, director and Magic City Campus teacher Aaron Michels initially pursued staging one of the first plays performed in the school’s history. However, Michels said it quickly became apparent the material of that era came with baggage that proved too difficult to massage for a modern audience.

“We found one from 1924, which we think was the first one. Right off the bat the first few pages were so racist you couldn’t even talk about it. It wasn’t even like, ‘Oh, we can cut that line or that line.’ It was just pages and pages of old minstrel kind of stuff. So that was out,” Michels said.

Michels turned to more recent material for the Playmakers’ final production, “The Doctor in Wonderland” by Don Zolidis, a non-copyright infringing parody of the cult hit British Broadcasting Company science fiction series “Doctor Who.”

“It’s a fairly new play that came out somewhat recently. ‘Doctor Who’ crashlands into Wonderland. We took kind of a steampunk version of it. It was a complicated set that took a long time. But I wanted to end kind of in a bang. We had done Shakespeare last year and I didn’t want to be too pretentious with the last show,” Michels said.

Charles Crane/MDN Director Aaron Michels supervises a practice run of the Jabberwocky's entrance to the stage shortly before showtime Wednesday afternoon at Minot High Central Campus.

Michels said the playwright wasn’t able to secure the rights to the “Doctor Who” property, so the eponymous character in the play is called “Doctor What” and the iconic blue police call box is referred to as “The Spaceship that is Not Intellectual Property of the BBC.”

Nineteen young thespians in grades 9-10 will be taking the stage in roles such as the Doctor and his companion, as well as the varied population of Lewis Carole’s Wonderland. An additional 30 students were essential in the staging of the production as members of the crew, taking charge on stage managing, lights and sound, prop management, set construction, among other support roles.

“I wanted a huge cast if possible, because I didn’t want to turn anyone away. I wanted to make sure with the last show that we get everybody we can. So there’s a lot of kids,” Michels said. “Some kids just want to do crew. We had some that just did costumes. The person who plays our Dodo and Mom is the front of the Jabberwocky, which eats things.”

The elaborate Jabberwocky prop requires two people to run, which includes room for the unfortunate souls gobbled up by it during the play. Michels and his crew spent the time before the matinee performance for students on Wednesday taping down tarp over seats to prevent the Jabberwocky from getting snagged on them as it moves on and off stage.

“We have some really cool noises that go along with it. Some people turn into robots. There are ‘daleks’ as well if you will,” Michels said.

Charles Crane/MDN Ella Withers as Dandelion, left, is scanned by Haydn Chapman’s “The Doctor,” at right, during the matinee performance of “The Doctor in Wonderland” Wednesday afternoon at Minot High Central Campus.

Michels credited the students for their hard work in resetting the scenes between transitions, which at one point involves setting up an entire courtroom. Michels said they’d gotten their reset time down from three minutes to one, and even did it in as little as 30 seconds during their practices.

Michels said the Central Campus auditorium could still host productions if the staff and students of the new Central Middle School are interested in pursuing it. As for the Playmakers’ future home at Minot North, Michels said the construction of the new theater space isn’t expected to be ready until November, but he hopes to be able to stage two plays sometime in December.

“Next year it’s a little up in the air at the moment for the fall, because the theater won’t be ready right away. What I’m hoping is to push that play back far enough where we can do two plays up there,” Michels said.

“It’s going to be nice. They’ve told me it’s going to be state of the art. It’s really big and nice from what I’ve seen,” he said. “I was in there. I was on the stage and my wife had me do some ‘Hamlet’ on the stage for her.”

Showtimes for “The Doctor in Wonderland” will be 7:30 p.m. from tonight through Saturday at the Central Campus auditorium. Adult tickets are $10, and tickets for students, military and seniors, $8.

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