That’s what led to the Longhorn Theatre’s production of “The Harvey Girls” Oct. 17-19 at the Payson High School Auditorium.
“I have always loved Arizona and Southwest history,” said Payson High Theatre Director Kathy Siler. “I greatly admire the pioneer spirit of this county ... throughout the centuries, searching for a better land, a better life.”
So she gravitated to Julie Jensen’s play centered on a late 19th century day at a Las Vegas, N.M. Harvey House. The Fred Harvey Company owned the Harvey House chain of restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality industry businesses alongside railroads in the western United States.
“Ever since I saw the mini Fred Harvey museum — as a little girl — at the El Tovar Lodge at the Grand Canyon, I have been intrigued with the story of Fred Harvey, his hospitality establishments and his ‘girls’ along America’s railroad lines,” Siler said.
“I read Julie Jensen’s play about five years ago and told myself that someday, I would do that play. The time is right.
“I have an abundance of females in the theatre production classes, and a few more males than last year. We have not done a full interior set for several years. We have up-and-coming talent both in the scene shop and control booth.”
The production required plenty of studying.
“My students and I have been enjoying our research: Victorian era, the Fred Harvey Company, history of New Mexico and famous landmarks such as The Montezuma Hotel, where the famous actress in our play Lydia Longtree is staying, and much more.”
Siler is so grateful that her students have the chance to take part in plays like “The Harvey Girls.”
“Arts in schools are so very needed,” she said. “They can Google any information they want to, but learning and practicing teamwork, collaboration, prioritizing, leading a crew, creating, and a real life product or service is life skills at its best.”
The cast included: Cameron Middaugh as Effie, Emily Cueto as Whistle, Arianne Baer as Mary, Makenzie Abney as Mecham, Isabella Cervantes as Raul, Nathaniel Stewart as Bachmann, Caitlyn Adams as Stella, Austin Bingden and Ayden Meyn as Glitterman, Matthew McCombs as Godlee, Liam Jones as Swamp, Raymond Hesson as Pillage, Ivy Moss as Longtree, Savannah Hopson as Shudder and Brandie Morris as Armed Woman.
The crew included: stage manager Bri Kenneth, assistant stage managers Sam Garr and Matthew McCombs, Lyric Allen (lights), Brandon Dozier (spot), Sydni Lee (sound), sound crew Austin Bingen and Cameron Middaugh, costume manager Savannah Hopson, Caitlyn Adams and Arianne Baer (properties), stage makeup Liberty Fain and Cameron Middaugh; Nathaniel Stewart (video/photography), house manager Bucky Wilcox, box office manager Joyce Cambier, box crew Ms. Rebekah Hovda and Xing Brouwer and Jaycee Griffith (concessions).
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