Miles Barnum walked the halls of West Fargo High School and found his life's calling in theater. After starting his career in professional acting and directing, Barnum walks the halls this year for the first time as a director for his own alma mater.
Barnum, who has directed other productions in the area, will direct his first show for West Fargo High School Theatre's showing of "White Buffalo."
Barnum, who travels back and forth between Los Angeles and Fargo, said he was speaking with people around the area and found out the directing spot for this production was open. Barnum said he will continue to direct winter shows while Bryce Henrickson, who is still the West Fargo High School Theatre director, will direct shows in the fall.
"This is an honor and privilege to have this opportunity and to connect with these young artists in a place where I got my artistic start," Barnum said. "It's neat to share some of those experiences from the world and bring them back to West Fargo."
"White Buffalo" is about the Gelling family as it struggles through love, loss and the meaning of family. Carol Gelling discovers a newborn white buffalo calf born on her Wisconsin farm, and the story eventually leads the character to make a decision to save her family.
"This show really revolves around hope," said West Fargo junior MaTia Martin. "Even with people doubting you, if you have your own thing that you hold true and find significance in that certain thing, than anything is worth fighting for if you put your mind to it."
Barnum, who picked the script, said he knew he had a strong group of actresses who could take on strong and complex female roles. He said he sees the students growing as artists in rehearsals and wanted to help them build a foundation for becoming better at acting. He said he wants the production to be a learning experience as much as he wanted to put on a show.
"You're never going to find me underestimating a young person," Barnum said. "I always try to challenge those top-level kids and get everyone else to reach up and push themselves to be better."
Martin, who plays Abby, said she had never heard of "White Buffalo" but was interested enough to sit down and read the script as soon as she got it. She said her school is used to comedy or light-hearted pieces, which is unlike this more complex plot.
"There's so many things going on that trying to wrap your head around exactly how to be and how to portray that accurately, it can get a little scary sometimes," Martin said. "I knew it would be unlike anything we had ever done and it would have to be a lot of hard work put into it and a lot of digging deep and understanding and willing to go to places you may have never gone to before."
Andie Peterson, who plays Carol, said she had faith her cast could make a good show out of an emotionally-driven plot. She believes the story revolves around a sense of family forgiveness, believing and decision making. She said the ending is purposely open ended, which she hopes leaves audiences thinking about their own lives.
"It's a show that leaves you going away thinking," Peterson said. "In art, it's cool when get to make your own decisions about that kind of stuff."
Barnum said the plot allows audience members to take different journeys based on their own faiths, beliefs and backgrounds. Barnum said his purpose of doing theater is to get people to think and to invoke change in others, which he believes the show does.
Despite its complexities, Peterson said anyone can relate to the story and its characters.
"It's not easy," Peterson said, "but it's a really beautiful story."
If you go
"White Buffalo" performed by West Fargo High School Theatre
When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1-3; 2 p.m. Feb. 4
Where: West Fargo High School Theatre (801 9th Street East)
Admission: $5 for students, $8 for adults
For tickets or more information, go to westfargotheatre.com or call (701) 499-1971.