'You Can't Take It With You'

Pictured, left to right, Ethan Wynalda, senior; Lexi Becker, senior; Madilyn Shandorf, junior; and Jaden Meyer, senior.

In the second largest cast yet assembled for a Bigfork School production, students will perform the highly respected Pulitzer Prize winning “You Can’t Take It With You,” by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart. Nineteen students grades seven through 12 will comprise the cast, and the crew will include another five to 10 students, with others assisting in ancillary roles.

The play, which Bigfork Director Dan King said explores motifs of individuality, acceptance, forgiveness, and the meaning of wealth in a capitalist society, centers around an eccentric extended family—and a few friends—living in New York in the 1930s who accept all types of individuals, regardless of race, status or origin. Although the family members are not masters of anything, they dabble in nearly everything including dancing, music, mask-making, printing, playwriting, candy-making, explosives and painting. But conflict arises when Alice Sycamore becomes engaged to Tony Kirby, the son of a wealthy Wall Street businessman. When the parents of Alice and Tony meet, unsuspected events occur and the marriage is suddenly in jeopardy.

According to King, “You Can’t Take It With You” is a highly respected performance due to its unique blend of humor and theme, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1937.

“Its potential to inspire audience members to reassess their values gives this play its merit,” said King. “It makes us question ourselves, to ask if Hart and Kaufman could see the need for Americans to take a look in the mirror in 1936. Why is it still necessary today?”

King said this play has been on his radar since he began directing, but he did not have the ensemble to pull it off in years past.  

“This year, more students than ever expressed an interest in being part of the spring production, and with the strength and experience of our seniors and juniors, I felt that this was our first opportunity to create a product that respected the content in the play,” said King.

In addition, said King, the production has had “tremendous cooperation” from The Edge Center for the Arts as well as high school staff, including Alexa Reichensperger, art teacher; Alycia Johnson, music instructor; and Stu Ostendorf, industrial technology instructor. Artistic Director Patty Feld has also assisted during a few rehearsals, and Kathy Champoux, Marcie Lindgren and Sandra LeBlanc-Boland have donated their time to assist the group in publicizing the upcoming production.  

King said he is “blessed to work in a community that cares so much about our school and our children.”  

“Staff members, community members and local organizations have stepped up to donate time, antiques, furniture, and even money to our production,” said King. “They have made this process so much easier and I can't thank them enough for their generosity.”

“The entire cast and crew has put a lot of time and effort into this play,” said Samantha Hollinday, a senior and seasoned thespian. “It is the longest play we have ever done and has the largest cast in years. Even with experience levels ranging from brand new to five-year returning veterans, we all bonded together as a family that is equal in effort and dedication.”

King said that, although  it has been “a pleasant experience” watching the student actors transform into their characters, and the large cast size allowed an opportunity to pay due respect to the story, it has also led to the play being the most challenging of the eight major productions of which he has played a role.

According to Jaden Meyer, a senior who has been performing with the drama club for nearly five years, rehearsals “involved many, many early mornings and late nights,” odd hours King said was necessitated by the large cast and their complicated extra-curricular schedule.

Regardless of the complications, King said the young performers “have risen to the challenge,” a sentiment shared by Hollinday.

“Even though the actors are all high schoolers, these early practices have been a nearly perfect blend of fun and work,” said Hollinday. “The environment is very fun and open. All suggestions are taken into consideration and we laugh when mistakes happen instead of ridiculing them.”

King said he attributes much of the performance’s progress to “the excellent leadership exuded by the production’s juniors and seniors.”

“Without their maturity, enthusiasm and experience, the last four months would have been a struggle,” continued King. “This group has shown more dedication and has put in more time and effort than those in previous years, and I am certain it is going to pay off.”

Performances of this “full night of fun, laughter, and maybe even a few tears” as Meyer eloquently put it, will take place on Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 29 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for adults, and $3 for students. Performances will take place in the Edge Center for the Arts, which is attached to the school.

“Audiences should expect the unexpected,” said Ethan Wynalda, a senior and first time performer. “This show goes in every direction imaginable but also has some very solid undertones and messages hidden in the dialogue.”

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