Evian Hurtado’s brief opening turn as a New York City newsboy set the stage for the Payson High School Longhorn Theatre Company’s production of “The Orphan Train” at the PHS auditorium on Oct. 21-23.
Produced in cooperation with Dramatic Publishing Woodstock IL, 17 students performed the Aurand Harris-written play to the delight of those in the audience for the three shows in three nights.
The play takes place in 1914 and features eight scenes, each focusing on the experiences of orphans at various stops on the Top Rock Rail Line heading west from New York City.
“I’ve been wanting to do this show for a long time,” wrote PHS Theatre Director Kathy Siler in the program. “The stories in this play are part of our American legacy. For many orphans, the train ride west was a positive experience and had a happy ending. For others, it was dreadful. This year it was a good fit. We have many enthusiastic Junior Thespians who wanted to be in a full length show.”
The cast of orphans opens with Emma Feliz as shy Mary, eager to fit in and please the cold and demanding Mrs. Herndon, played by Marissa Ormand.
In the next scene, Sea Anna Broberg plays Frank/Frankie, a girl dressed as a boy trying to fit in with her new home situation with Ashlynd Whetstone’s Hannah and Kar Bindgen’s Henry.
Next, Bella Pangallo plays Raymond, a lame boy who uses crutches and wonders what kind of life he can have. Carnival Man Cody Hawley offers him a job with the carnival.
Eva Platt plays Evie, a mature orphan trying to maneuver her new life with Cameron Mathews’ Emily, a proper young lady, and James, her friend played by Cody Hawley.
Hawley returns in the next scenes as Lucky, the NYC pickpocket continuing to do what he knows how to do in a Midwestern town opposite an orphan-hating woman played by Taylor Hayden and Sky Lee Broberg’s peacemaker.
Next, Rya Platt portrays Pegeen, an Irish girl dealing with prejudice in a scene featuring Chad Hooper as the Old Man and Littzy Millan-Chavez as Teacher and Seth Weigand as Harvey, a student. Weigand also performed Mr. Williams in the opening scene. He had three roles.
Next, Hurtado returns as Danny, the entertainer, who tries to find his way in a scene with Kar Bindgen playing Man and Whetstone as Lady.
In a powerful final scene, loyal orphan Annie, played by Sky Lee (Ash) Broberg, insists she won’t live with anyone unless Emma Feliz’s Little Lucy stays with her. Taylor Hayden plays a woman who wants a little girl but not Annie, and Weigand portrays a farmer who wants someone able to work and not a young girl.
The play closes with the two back who’ve now traveled to the final stop, the end of the line, hoping this is where they’ll find someone who’ll take both of them in.
Siler talked about the importance of theater.
“Theatre makes people whole,” she wrote. “It helps us to experience our humanity and teaches us collaboration, tolerance, insight, and so much more. Thank you for supporting arts in schools.”
The Longhorn Theatre season continues with the PHS Haunted House: Nuclear Plant Meltdown featuring a guided walk through the auditorium from 6-8:30 p.m. on Nov. 5-6. The event benefits the local food bank.
The performances were dedicated to Suzanne Moore, who along with her compadre from Cactus High School, Jef Rawls, instigated the charter of Int’l Thespian Troupe 4972 in 1991.