When a team of comedians from Hutchinson High School compete in Jordan this Saturday, their one-act play “Snow Child” will be unlike anything the group has ever performed.
“A lot of the show is sort of experimental,” said junior Rowan Jordahl.
Not only does the actor play Clyde, a starring role on the show, but he’s also composed four of his tracks, including two opening and two midway through.
“It’s still a standard one-act show,” he said. “But we have a lot more fun with the technology and the decor and things like that, and knowing that our show is written by a (former).”
Fans of the Hutchinson Public Schools Theater program will know the playwright from “Snow Child.” Landon Butler was a regular fixture on shows throughout his time as a student, including last year when, as a senior, he played Don Lockwood in “Singin’ in the Rain.” He is now a student at Emerson College in Boston. Before graduating from Hutchinson High School, he took a freelance theater history course with one-act director Jason Olson. Part of its finale called for a performance piece.
“I decided I wanted to get into writing,” Butler said. “I had read a book based on the fairy tale of the Snow Child, a famous folk tale. … I knew I wanted a drama, but uplifting, but mysterious. So I got to work and the more I kept working on it, it took a lot of left and right turns as it went in. But I think the way it ended up is how I wanted it to be.
Olson described the show as a fairy tale.
“The idea is that this couple, who have been extremely in love, suffer a tragedy,” he said. “Trying to salvage their relationship, they move to this cabin in the forest and from there the spirits of the forest somehow help them remember what brought them together in the first place.”
Butler described the show’s themes as love and trust, both for yourself and for others.
“It’s a story of finding yourself and what that can entail,” he said.
Last month, during the Christmas holidays, Butler was at his home in Hutchinson for a month. Olson invited him to direct the rehearsal and see his vision come to life with the help of the one-act crew members from his hometown.
“It was really cool. At first it was a bit scary. I had all these ideas in my head, then I put them on paper, and then the day came when I put them on stage,” said Butler said. “It was like, ‘Oh my god, this was in my brain and now it’s in front of me.’ It’s a really cool experience.
Although Butler couldn’t see how the series has been going since returning to Boston, Olson sent him updates. Butler hopes to see a recording and witness for himself the show’s many experimental production techniques, including lighting, which are new to the one-act crew. Butler said he was inspired by ideas seen in earlier one-act play competitions and in college.
“He added things like shadow puppets, and some of the stage lighting is done with flashlights,” Olson said. “It was really exciting to watch.”
An experimental show needs its own music to match the tone and rhythm of the story. This is where Jordahl stepped in with his four pieces.
“There were certain aspects that we couldn’t find music to match, and this whole year is meant to be experimental,” he said.
He was already composing music in his spare time – a hobby passed down from his father, Jim. His favorite work is orchestral, similar to popular music for movies or video games. The show’s needs fell into a similar niche, but called for a different sonic palette.
“I don’t take out French horns or flutes,” Jordahl said. “There are some things with voices sung by actors. Basically, it’s piano and percussion.
On stage, her role as Clyde, alongside Hope Taylor as Wanda, delves into heartbreak and a trip down memory lane.
“We have to rediscover ourselves,” Jordahl said of the characters.
He also found another difficult aspect: bringing his fairly ordinary character to life alongside the world of the supernatural.
“There are a lot of spirits on the show, and they have distinct emotions,” he said.
Overall, Olson said, production of this year’s one-act play went well. After this Saturday’s competition, the team could move on to the subsections if they finish in the top three. The best performances in the sections pass to the state. All in all, it’s a three-week competition season, with hopes for a local show as well.
“They had a really fantastic experience with the musical, and one of the reasons it was fantastic is that we had a lot of new blood,” Olson said. “It’s quite exciting. We still have quite a mix, where we have some who have done it many times, and some who are fairly new. It’s a fun dynamic they’ve developed.