Friday, December 10, 1999

Hold Your Holsters, Annie Is Coming

Hold Your Holsters, Annie Is Coming
Musical Starts today at the Tecumseh Civic Auditorium
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Backstage, clothes are strewn all over. Little bodies are jumping into their 19th century costumes with the help of parent-volunteers. In between scenes, students scramble to buy tickets for relatives.

And in the middle of it all, “the Annie Get Your Gun” director casts members orchestrating the group scenes and ironing out last-minute glitches with the sound or light crew.

In other words, it’s rehearsal week for Tecumseh Youth Theatre’s first production of the season.

Leah Coon, a senior at Sand Creek High School, plays Annie Oakley. Brian Hissong, a senior at Adrian High School, plays Frank Butler.

The Tecumseh Theatre play is a love story, a western and a musical all rolled into one.

Tecumseh Youth Theatre president Sandra Spickard Prettyman said the nonprofit theatre group, which boasts hundreds of actors, singers, musicians and adult-volunteers, aims to bring the arts to the widest audience as possible.

“I’m nervous until I get onstage,” Coon said. It’s her first leading role, Coon said. “It’s very exciting,” she said. And the best thing about the play, Coon said, is getting to know everyone, especially the younger kids.

“I’m a little nervous about the play, but I think I’ll do fine,” said Laurel Steele, 11, of Tecumseh Middle School. Stelle Sings and acts in the children’s troupe in the play.

In “Annie Get Your Gun,” Annie is a young woman from the backwoods of Ohio who taught herself to shoot while hunting birds. But sharpshooter flirt Frank who tours from town to town knows he’s the best, Spickard Prettyman said.

The play is loosely backed on a true person Phoebe Ann Mosey who lived from 1860 until 1914.

The two meet at a town hotel. But in a target-shoot set up by Buffalo Bill and the hotel proprietor, Frank and Annie end up in a heated contest—and Annie wins. Buffalo Bill, played by Ryan Buehler, and Foster Wilson, played by Nikolas Willson, are both Tecumseh seniors.

Director Terry Hissong isn’t planning on sitting still to watch his son play Frank, the co-lead in “Annie.” As past director of dozens of youth plays, the Springbrook Middle School history teacher said the usual gnawing feeling he gets in the pit of his stomach makes him too nervous to sit in one spot.

But on the week of opening night, a director has to let go and let the actors show what they can do.

“They either have it or they don’t” Hissong said raising both of his hands in the air.

“There area tremendous number of pieces that have to fit together. We’re trying to get a sense of continuity: That’s the challenge,” he said.

With his eyes glued to the actors onstage, Hissong half walks, half runs down Tecumseh’s Civic Auditorium’s aisle one recent rehearsal night to exchange a word with one of the other adult volunteers.

The two-hour, 15-minute play was picked up by the Tecumseh Youth Theatre committee to include as many people as possible, Hissong said. The story line, which brings in aspects of small-town life and a version of Sioux tribal culture, aims to provide a window to the past for both the actors and the audience.

After the contest where Frank has his ego bruised, Sandra Spickard Prettyman said, Annie and Frank start working together—but an enamored Annie agrees to work as Frank’s partner-assistant in the traveling show. With Frank feeling slighted at some spectacular shooting trick Annie does, the two have a falling out—for the first time.

“They get together; they split apart; they get together; they split apart; they get together,” Sandra Spickard Prettyman said summing the couple’s path down the road of love.

At the back of the auditorium, Brian Hissong rests his head against a chair. His final year of high school has been smooth, he said, and he plans to enroll in a drama program next year. But the weekly 12-20 hours of rehearsal since October has taken its toll on the cast.

Emily Spickard Prettyman, a 9th grader at Tecumseh High School, plays Annie’s younger sister, Jessie. She said for her and good friend Meg Wilson, juggling work and rehearsal time is tough.

“We walk around like zombies. We start rehearsing in the beginning of October,” she said.

“… It’s been long and tiring but it’s still fun,” Prettyman said.

Director Terry Hissong said the cast has improved a lot from Monday night when the troupe went through its first full-run.

“And my stomach isn’t quite as knotted, he said.

Friday, December 10, 1999