Summer Arts Intensive to show 'Grease'
Randall Taylor has been watching and dancing along with the songs of "Grease" in his home since he was 3 years old. Other than a larger audience, not much has changed for now college-aged Taylor.
Taylor will play Danny Zuko in West Fargo Summer Arts Intensive's performance of "Grease" beginning 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 27, at West Fargo Sheyenne High School. Growing up, Taylor thought "Grease" was just a fun little high school show, but now that the West Fargo High School graduate is rehearsing it, he's realizing the depth—the musical challenge and storyline complexities—that come with it.
"It has art, story, entertainment and love. It has all these characteristics of a good show," Taylor said. "It's a new side of the show I haven't seen before."
Summer Arts Intensive is a theater program in its seventh year that brings more than 50 artists from high schools and college underclassmen across the metro that practice from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. four days a week from July 5 to the first performance.
Taylor, who is going to be a North Dakota State sophomore going for musical theater, has worked with Summer Arts Intensive director Adam Pankow on several productions before and felt comfortable trying out for the part knowing Pankow's vision for the show.
"If you're going to be in summer theater, you have to be willing to put in the time in and out of rehearsal," Taylor said. "Not everybody is ready for that. The biggest difference is the level of attention (compared to high school theater). Here, everything is devoted to musical theater."
"Grease" is about Zuko, who struggles to keep his reputation among his guy friends while trying to be a romantic for Sandy Dumbrowski, the new girl in town at Rydell High in the 1950s. Pankow liked "Grease" for the individual and group opportunities it would give for his young students, who all knew about the show despite its debut in the 1970s.
"All this music is in the consciousness of society. It's embedded in pop culture," Pankow said. "It's fun to get to tackle some of that sometimes."
The program is a 35-member cast with a nine-artist band and a 10-person technical crew. Pankow said he had over 70 artists audition for the cast, which was a new high for the program. Pankow had faith this group would develop chemistry and learn about each other quickly so they could perform well. He said it's a group of people who are comfortable taking the spotlight and sharing it when needed.
Pankow made tweaks for suggestive material in the script, but ultimately left in some of the content because he believes things like sex and drinking are teenage issues so it should be normal to have a show that's been on high school stages before.
Amanda Perlenfein, a Concordia College sophomore going for elementary education and theater arts who plays Marty Maraschino, said she also watched "Grease" growing up and couldn't wait to audition for her second year in the program. She said she likes theater because she loves to portray somebody else and step into somebody else's shoes as well as the community involved with the program.
"I love the bonding experience that happens with the cast here," Perlenfein said. "We spend so many hours together and we get to know each other so well that it really feels like a family unit."
Perlenfein said she was shy in middle school but now because of theater is looking forward to bringing the "larger than life" characters from "Grease" to the stage.
"We wanna make the audience excited so that means we also have to be excited," Perlenfein said. "These characters are big, and in real life people are pretty reserved especially here, so we have to step out of that."
Pankow said he has a good mix of younger students as young as freshmen in high school who bring energy to the set as well as more experienced artists who bring more professionalism and work ethic.
"Having experience puts a little bit of weight on your shoulders. You have to carry yourself a little bit differently," Taylor said. "It's a completely different beast to be the leading man and be in that position as well. You have to care as much as everybody else does, but you have to put in that much more work and have that much more of a commitment, but it's worth it. Every second of being on that stage is worth it."
If you go
Who: West Fargo Summer Arts Intensive
What: "Grease" by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey
When: 7:30 p.m. on July 27, 28, 29, 31 and Aug. 1; 2:30 p.m. on July 30
Where: West Fargo Sheyenne High School Theatre (800 40th Avenue East)
Tickets: General admission $16 for adults, $13 for seniors, $10 for students. For the box office call (701) 499-3237 or go to WestFargoTheatre.com.