Raymond enjoys working with young actorsFrom Director Jillynne Raymond's perspective, there are no strangers in "The Sound of Music."
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
From Director Jillynne Raymond's perspective, there are no strangers in "The Sound of Music."
Half of the cast - which numbers nearly three dozen men, women and children - and nearly half the crew members studied speech/theater under Raymond at Red Wing Schools or appeared in plays she directed there.
She has been watching them grow and develop their talents on stage for more than a decade.
Raymond taught at Red Wing High School for 10 years and before that taught Twin Bluff Middle School for seven years. At Red Wing High she directed two shows a year - a fall children's play and a winter drama.
Over the years, she also directed two Phoenix Theatre productions: "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" around 2005 and "Funny Girl" in 2003.
Working with young people on "The Sound of Music," which opens Thursday at the Sheldon Theatre and runs over two weekends, is her idea of a good time.
"Summer fun doesn't get better than this," Raymond said.
Five of the young actors who play Capt. von Trapp's children in the summer musical have been in her plays or classes, including Briana Moynihan as the eldest daughter, Liesl, Riley Larson as Friedrich, Emma Cory as Louisa, Molly Cyr as Brigitta and Connor Bergin as Kurt.
Audiences also will remember Moynihan in the role of the diva Carlotta in the high school production of "Phantom of the Opera" this spring, Raymond pointed out. And Liesl's love interest, Rolf Gruber, is played by Isaac Sevlie, who also has been in Raymond's class.
Among other former students are Anne Richardson and Tony Larson as Elsa Schrader and Max Detwiler and Charlie Woodruff as Herr Zeller. Richardson played the title character in the high school production of "Evita" a couple of years ago.
Among high school alumni working crews is Raymond's daughter, Spencer, who is costume designer. She just graduated from Macalester College in studio arts and psychology.
Others who learned technical production aspects under Raymond include Carly Smith, first-time choreographer and Miss Red Wing candidate; Jacob Chalmers, lighting design; Jessica Lindstrom, sound; and a costume/hair/makeup team including Rosalie Biittner, Evie Trulen and Jason Key.
Many of the adult faces in the production also are familiar. Raymond said Susan Kinyon, who plays Maria, once babysat for Raymond's children - and also will be known to audiences as Meg in the 2009 production of "Little Women" and Kate in "Oklahoma" the year before.
Maria's love interest, Capt. von Trapp, is played by Bill Foot, who will be familiar to audiences for his recent portrayal of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" and other performances.
Foot is also the vocal director for the summer production.
"We are devoting one night a week to rehearsing strictly on vocals," Raymond noted. "I am in awe of everyone's talent."
Pit director is Rob Schmidtke, who assists with the RWHS band program. He has worked several summer musicals, including last year's "Wedding Singer."
Many in the audience will be familiar with "The Sound of Music" from watching the 1965 movie version. To capture that setting, Heather Finholm and her crew created a series of painted backdrops of the mountains, the abbey walls and the mansion.
"Our version is different" from the movie, Raymond said. For one thing, the stage version has some additional songs. "Max Detwiler and Elsa Schrader advance their characters and the story with duets," she explained.
The summer musical will not be students' last opportunity to work with Raymond. Last fall she became a TOSA - teacher on special assignment - for the school district, charged with using federal funding to work on curriculum, teacher professional growth and other activities aimed at decreasing the achievement gap among students.
Raymond recently completed studies at St. Mary's University and obtained K-12 administrative licensure.
"I'm working on a doctorate right now in educational leadership," also through St. Mary's, she said.
Since she works out of the high school, Raymond was able to maintain involvement in the RWHS theater program. She'll direct "Alien Nation" for children in October and "Pride and Prejudice" in January.