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“Our Town” production features high school cast

Amalia Brownell lets loose on stage. The 15-year-old Onalaska High School student knows she has to minimize the drama at school so people don’t look at her funny. But there’s no better place for drama than the theater.

That’s why Brownell has spent nearly half of her life acting in youth productions organized by the La Crosse Community Theatre, and why she’ll take the stage again next week in an upcoming play performed by a cast of area high school students.

“It kind of gives you a chance to be a little weird,” Brownell said. “Everyone is just really accepting.”

Students will flex their drama muscles with the play “Our Town,” which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Weber Center for the Performing Arts and runs through two weekends.

It’s the first time LCT’s Theatre for Youth program has cast all high school students for a play. The program offers a creative outlet year-round for local children and teens, with workshops and productions and other chances to hone their acting skills.

“Our Town” director Rebecca Seflow Hartzell says the play promises to be a relatable story for her adolescent players. Novelist and playwright Thornton Wilder wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning script 75 years ago, telling a rich story about small-town life.

The play is all about what Seflow Hartzell called “quiet moments.”

“It’s your town, it’s my town,” Seflow Hartzell said. “It’s everybody’s town.”

Children and teens who sign up for one of LCT’s youth productions learn theater basics such as following stage directions and projecting their voice for the audience, Seflow Hartzell said.

“Once you get past these basic things, it’s really about listening and reacting,” she said.

Brady Harlan, 17, is used to performing in show choir at Onalaska High School, but he wanted to test his acting chops.

Picked to pLa Crosse Community Theatre, Our Townlay the play’s narrator, a character dubbed the “Stage Manager,” he already has had to memorize long monologues.

“I’m really grateful that La Crosse has such a great community theater,” Harlan said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”

High school teens don’t always like going a step further than the basics and giving up control, but that’s tantamount to the craft of acting.

“I’m hoping that they all have a moment where you just feel stupid,” Seflow Hartzell said. “It is what you pray they are willing to do.”

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