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HHS fall production, Moominvalley in November, runs this weekend

Lewis Youngren, left, recites a poem during rehearsal Monday night. Pictured at the table, clockwise from left to right, are Miranda Poncelet, Claire Ritchie, Sophie Sieh, Jolena Zabel and Emily Northard.

The auditorium at Hastings High School is one other schools envy. It's large, up-to-date with technology and the sound is phenomenal.

That said, very little of it will be used for the next production of the school's theater department.

Moominvalley in November, which runs this weekend, is "in the round." The entire play is set in a small space on the stage. Surrounding that small space are seats for audience members. It's an intimate setting for an intimate play.

"I really like that both the actors and the audience are on stage together," said Lewis Youngren, one of the cast members. "They are right in the action, I guess you could say."

Youngren plays The Hemulen. He is a senior at HHS and this will be the first time he has performed in the round at the school.

"It's very different," he said. "We haven't done anything like this before. We have to perform to all four sides of the stage."

Senior Sophie Sieh, who plays Mymble, echoed Youngren's thoughts.

"It's really exciting how we are doing the stage, and the costumes are great," she said. "It's really different from anything I've done before."

The play's director is Erik Pearson, a teaching artist who has worked with the district for four years. He is a 1995 graduate of Hastings High School.

He adapted a children's book for the production. The book was written by Finnish author Tove Jansson.

The intimate play chronicles a cast of characters who head off on a journey to visit Mooninvalley where they can visit the Moomins, a family the characters hold in high esteem.

When the characters arrive to visit the Moomins, though, they find the house empty. The characters then go on their own journey to find happiness within themselves, instead of relying on the Moomins.

Pearson said that about every four years the school has theater in the round so that most classes can have an opportunity to be in a production like it. The cast has made the adjustment well, he said.

"They're working really hard," Pearson said. " It's not a process they're used to, but they've come a long way. They're doing really good work."

Robin Starch is the play's artistic director. Anne Blessing is the technical director.

Cast members are Emily Northard, Miranda Poncelet, Jolena Zabel, Youngren, Claire Ritchie, Sieh, Kayla Brown, Marisa Tejeda, Kaitlyn Tipler, Madelynn Emmerich, Siobhan Mulloy, Molly Streiff, Marty Weber, Zach Filkins and Savanna Steinbruckner.

Stage managers are Mari Novotny and Bri Kolmer. Handling the sound and lights are John Becker, Andy Brownson and David Wigness.

The schedule

Moominvalley in November runs for three days this weekend.

There are 7 p.m. shows Nov. 5 and Nov. 6 and a 2 p.m. show on Nov. 7.

Tickets are available at the door for $5. For students and seniors tickets are $3.