Monticello students, pit orchestra, win musical accolades

Two months ago 1,300 people filled the seats of the Monticello High School’s performing arts center to see the school’s first fall musical, “A Christmas Carol.”
Besides the standard audience members, the cast also performed for representatives of the Hennepin Theatre Trust, who chose Monticello as one of the top 56 high school theater programs for inclusion in their SpotLight Musical Theatre Program.
This gave cast members the opportunity to receive feedback from professionals about their performance as well as chances for cast members to win awards for their performances.
And win they have.
The Hennepin Theatre Trust came back with numerous awards for the musical, including two cast members who won outstanding performance awards, the highest award given by the Hennepin Theatre Trust. Hannah Schieder, as Belle, won outstanding performance in a supporting role and Claire Chwalek, as Mrs. Filch, won outstanding performance in a featured role.
The awards didn’t end there. Five other student cast members won honorable mentions for their performances: Dravin Hoiem (Dickens), Zak McPherson (Marley and Ghost of Christmas Present), Alex Woytke (Mr. Fezziwig), Troy Koeppen (Old Joe/Costermonger) and Adrianna Wichman (Mrs. Dilber).
The Trust gave another outstanding performance award to the high school pit orchestra, under the direction of Brett Krohn. This is the highest award possible to receive for the orchestra as well.
“The students in the pit were excited to hear about the award,” Krohn said of his students, who had some witty responses upon finding out about their award.
“We put the music in musical,” student Michael Gerber said. “Without us, we’d just have ‘al.’”
“The only thing cooler than our music was the temperature in the pit,” added Katelyn Kuhn, referencing the chilly temps the players dealt with during the performances.
In fact, many of the pit members were playing with outdoor gear on to combat the cold in the orchestra pit.
All seven students who received recognition from Hennepin Theatre Trust have been invited to perform at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis on June 3 for their SpotLight Showcase, which gives outstanding high school actors and actresses a chance to perform in a professionally produced show at one of Minneapolis’ most famous venues. Outstanding performance winners will be given solo performances in the show.
Schieder, and Chwalek, who won the highest individual honors, have also been invited to apply for the Triple Threat Award, which includes a scholarship and a customized, five-day musical theater trip to New York City, where winners will attend Broadway shows, meet with NYC art professionals, take dance, vocal and acting lessons and go on auditions.
The application process for the award is lengthy, and Monticello’s two applicants are busy preparing them this week, according to their director, Kristen Gordon. The Triple Threat Awards for Best Actor and Actress will go to students who not only have a talent for acting, dancing and singing, but who also show leadership ability and efforts to better their community through art, according to the Trust.
Schieder said she was “really excited” when she heard the news of her outstanding performance award, and she’s thrilled at the possibility of winning a scholarship to help her achieve her goal of receiving a vocal performance major in college.
Besides taking part in the school’s theater programs she is also a member of the choir and pop choir and she plays piano for the choir as well.
“I’d like to give a big thanks to my director, my family and friends for always being there for me,” Schieder said.
With a successful fall performance under their belt, Gordon said they are already turning their attention to the next performance, the title of which is yet to be announced. Monticello’s next high school musical will take place in the spring of 2014.

Freelancer Meghan Gutzwiller covers education and the Monticello School District.