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Archive for Thursday, June 30, 2011

Musical about Garden City cofounder taking flight

June 30, 2011

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— With about half of a normal stage crew, and in about half the normal time, director Phil Hoke is putting the finishing touches on "Dream Your Dreams: The Buffalo Jones Story."

Auditions were held around the beginning of June for the play, an original stage musical written by local resident Duane West, and Hoke said that they didn't get a full cast for a week-and-a-half.

"So we've had four-and-a-half weeks to put everything together," said Hoke, director of theater and technical director at GCCC. "But we are definitely making progress."

Hoke has taken on the director duties for West's musical about the life of one of Garden City's legendary founders, Charles Jesse Jones, better known as Buffalo Jones.

In addition to the short time period for rehearsals, Hoke's stage crew consists of three people: himself, his son, Jeff Hoke, and Alan Kessler, a sophomore at GCCC. Hoke said a normal stage crew consists of six to 10 people.

The play is scheduled to run July 8, 9 and 10, so the small crew has been working feverishly at building the set, which consists of a train engine modeled after the one on display at Lee Richardson Zoo, a dugout with hills on top of it, a barn, shop, porch and chuckwagon.

"We're going to move them in and out, so that way the action of the show never stops. This, and we're also going to use silhouette screens and we're going to make it multimedia and use pictures not only of the era, but contemporary things that relate to the show, as well. Just kind of do a combination approach," he said.

Kessler, of Lakin, is majoring in mechanical engineering but works in the theater department on a scholarship work study at GCCC. He and Hoke were working on the fuselage part of the train on Tuesday.

"In the play, they'll be talking about the train periodically, so they decided they wanted a full-sized train. We gave them as close as possible," Kessler said.

Jeff Hoke, who is visiting his father from Las Vegas and assisting him in constructing the sets, said, "It's sort of been nice in a way because I've been in the theater program at my high school, so it's been nice to learn how the tech side runs and maybe bring some of those skills back with me so I can help further the department there."

This past spring, Phil Hoke began working with former county attorney West, whose idea to write a show about Buffalo Jones first developed back in 1990.

"When I first came here in 1940, I went to (Buffalo Jones) school on the west side and out in the schoolyard there was this little brass plaque that said, 'this was the site of Buffalo Jones' cabin.' He was one of the four guys who founded the town, and so I've always been interested in him," West said.

West has not only been writing the play, but also the 24 songs that will be featured in it.

Jones is credited by early western novelist Zane Grey, among others, with saving buffaloes from extinction. Grey is the narrator of the show.

"To tell the story about his friend named Jones," West said about why Grey is the narrator. "In fact, he sings the opening song, 'My Friend Named Jones.'"

Buffalo Jones is being played by Brian Seagraves, Garden City Recreation Commission art director. Zane Grey is being played by Rick Corbett, who is employed with Crop Production Services, and Mr. Walton, the railroad supervisor, is being played by Bill Clifford, president of the GCCC Board of Trustees.

Corbett said that though he has never acted in a play before, he has worked backstage. He and his wife, Rosemary, also do a lot of singing in their church. When he went for auditions, all of the major roles already were filled so he thought he was going to be filling a minor one.

"But when I got there and started reading for it, West liked my voice so much that he ended up giving me the Zane Grey role," he said.

The cast has been rehearsing every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. On Tuesday, the cast was working on music rehearsals and choreography.

"We're working with folks who have some theater experience or limited theater experience, but I'm really pleased with the number of folks who decided to give it a try," Phil Hoke said. "We have over 20 people involved, and they range in age from 6 to 60. And it's a lot of families, as well, so that's a good thing."

Because there are 44 roles to fill in the play, several of the actors are double cast.

"The principals are all stable on their own, but beyond that we've got people doubling up because of the way it's written, which also gives them more stage time," Hoke said.

The cast includes local and area residents. Bruce Spiller, retired GCCC instrumental music director, is the musical director. Carolyn Klassen, piano/keyboard instructor at the college, and Linda Adams, Garden City, will be accompanists for the show.

"Our own Buffalo Jones is a true American hero, and we are pleased to help tell his story via this show," West said in his announcement on June 20. "I greatly appreciate the efforts of director Hoke, the college and the cast and crew. Without their assistance, the story could not be told."

Tickets are available at the Finney County United Way, 1511 Fulton Terrace, but also will be sold at the door prior to each show. They are $20 each, and all proceeds are going to benefit the nonprofit organization.

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. July 8 and 9, and 2 p.m. July 10.

For more information, contact Phil Hoke at 276-0401 or email him at phil.hoke(at)gcccks.edu.

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