By Matthew Gundrum —
Come and celebrate the 56th season of the Menomonie Theater Guild with its first production of the year: “Into the Woods.”
“Into the Woods” is a spectacle like no other. It combines different characters from several Brothers Grimm fairy tales into one epic musical. The plot lies with a baker and his wife: due to a family curse, the couple is hopelessly infertile. However, a witch gives the couple an opportunity to reverse the curse. In order to do so, the couple and his wife must collect a number of items spanning across different fairy tale worlds. The quest to collect these items results in a stunning and wildly entertaining musical.
“‘Into the Woods’ is different from most other musicals out there,” said Maura Dunst who’s playing the role of Lucinda—one of Cinderella’s evil stepsisters. “It has all the things you’re looking for: it’s very moving, it’s very funny, it’s very interesting, it’s very clever and it’s unlike any of the other musicals that have been done in the area recently.”
Dunst is a University of Missouri graduate. She received her masters at Cardiff University in the U.K. and has come to University of Wisconsin–Stout to teach English. Although academia is her primary career, she enjoys acting as an aside.
But the production is not without its share of Stout students.
Shannon Hoyt, a freshman in the Communications program, saw “Into the Woods” as a great chance to get involved in theater at a college level. She had much experience with plays and musicals in high school so this experience was by no means new to her.
“I’m Sleeping Beauty. It’s a very small position at the end of the play,” said Hoyt. Although a small part, her responsibilities do not end there.
“I’m also stage manager,” a major position in the overall production, Hoyt said. “We have to get props done. We have to get everything done in a short amount of time so it’s a rush.”
Stout students not only represent the acting body of this production but also make up the musical talent.
Joshua Battles is a sophomore in the Game Design program and pianist for “Into the Woods.”
“I’ve been playing for about 14 years now,” said Battles. “Once you hit your ten-year mark with any instrument you can pretty much start doing anything, go in any direction.”
This direction, for Battles, just happened to be theater. His first exposure to playing in this particular setting was last year’s production of “110 in the Shade.” The experience brought forth a new way of thinking about music for Battles.
“It’s been really different for me because there’s a lot more to think about. I guess when you’re playing with a band or playing with a group, you’re playing for yourself. But I think when you’re playing in theater you’re playing for the rest of your cast. It’s a really huge teamwork thing.”
This production has been especially challenging for him.
“It’s a work by Sondheim,” said Battles. “It’s been really complicated so far. Everything you can think to just mix up a score right in the middle of it, he’ll go out of his way to do it. Sondheim is a master, and when you’re dealing with his works it’s definitely a challenge to get to that level.”
Dunst felt similarly.
“Sondheim is really difficult,” she commented. “There’s so many words to remember so it’s challenging on many levels.”
However, despite these challenges, the end product is always the greatest reward.
“Just that moment when it’s performance night and you finish a show and everyone enjoyed it and you know you did a good job,” said Battles. “It just feels great.”
Don’t miss your chance to catch “Into the Woods!” Performance dates are February 27, 28, and March 6, 7 at 7:30 p.m. and February 28 and March 1,7,8 at 2:00 p.m.