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West Senior stages reading of ‘Charlotte’s Web’

It may not be ideal, but West Senior High School students are doing what they can to put on a spring production for the school community. 

On Wednesday, March 31, 19 students will perform a staged reading of “Charlotte’s Web,” the classic children’s tale of a livestock pig named Wilbur and his friendship with a barn spider named Charlotte. The performance will be live streamed to the elementary and middle schools, and will be available for viewing on the district’s YouTube channel.

Director Keith Ersing said he was inspired by a production of “Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which he participated in with Starring Buffalo. 

“We used stands with wheels on them. I thought it was a cool idea so we borrowed the stands with wheels from the theater company and we’re utilizing them in our staged reading,” he said.

Despite the nature of a live performance, Ersing said students are six feet apart at all times following state guidelines and safety protocols.

“There're two rows of students six feet apart upstage and they come downstage to do the reading. Each kid has a script on the music stand, they’ll be in costume, and we’ll have lights and projections and microphones. It’ll be kind of like a real show with more of a staged reading approach,” he said.

“We’re in masks the entire time. We’re in masks for rehearsal, we’re going to be in masks for the performance,” he said.

In the story of “Charlotte’s Web” there are a myriad of animals to draw inspiration from, giving new life to masks in the form of duck bills and snouts.

“We’re doing our best to try to be aesthetically pleasing for the students and make sure that our students at the high school can be good storytellers,” the director said.

Students are able to practice together in the school’s chorus room, now adorned with marks every six feet.

“Each chair that is set is measured. Each spike marking on the floor is measured for six feet to make sure that we are adhering to that guideline,” Ersing said.

The benefit of this format is that families will be able to watch the performance for free from the safety of home.

“It’ll be different. We’ve never done anything like this before. We’re trying to really overthink things and make sure we’re doing everything correctly so that it’s a memorable experience for the high school kids as well as the elementary and middle school kids,” Ersing said.

He said the show is surrounded by a supportive school.

“The wonderful thing is we’ve got a core group of parents at home working on costumes from their houses and to help build props and set pieces. I’m so very thankful for them,” Ersing said. “Watching and listening to the parents who are so willing to offer assistance just because they know how difficult of a year it’s been for the kids and they’re trying to make the best out of a challenging situation.”

“I’m grateful to the administration for allowing us to try to do something for the kids. It doesn’t happen without a great support team and there’s an awareness that stuff like this is really important, not only for the arts, but also for the mental and physical health of our kids,” Ersing said.