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Student actors work dauntlessly to make audience’s woes be gone
by Michelle Zewin
Apr 22, 2008 | 1221 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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<a href=>Tribune/Tony Contini</a> Ashton Williams, 15, stars as Princess Winnifred in Spanish Springs High School's presentation of "Once Upon a Mattress".
Sara Bogard and Ashton Williams were flailing about on the stage Friday afternoon in the Spanish Springs High School performing arts theater.

“Nine,” Bogard called out as she switched positions with Williams, who quickly mimicked her.

Bogard and Williams flipped and flopped about on stage until they reached the 25th position. Then they did it all over again until they had all the “bad bed positions” down pat.

The pair were rehearsing for Spanish Springs High School’s spring musical, “Once Upon a Mattress,” which opens Thursday. Taking after the “Princess and the Pea” fairy tale, “Once Upon a Mattress” takes place in a medieval kingdom ruled by the devious Queen Aggravaine. The Queen makes a law that no one shall be wed until her son, Prince Dauntless the Drab, marries. Only to the kingdom’s dismay, the Queen sends away all suitors. Enter Williams, the 15-year-old sophomore, playing the lead role as Princess Winnifred the Woebegone.

“Talent doesn’t have an age,” Bogard said of Williams as she practiced singing “The Swamps of Home.”

But Princess Winnifred is a little unusual and soon the whole kingdom is enchanted with her, including Prince Dauntless.

“(Princess Winnifred) is not your ordinary princess,” Bogard said. “She’s kind of like the ‘Shrek’ princess. She’s not your dainty butterfly. She’s outrageous and unconventional.”

Determined to not allow her son to marry Princess Winnifred, the Queen and her wizard devise a test. They will place a tiny pea beneath 20 thick downy mattresses and if this keeps the princess awake, she will be deemed sensitive enough to marry the prince.

And that’s where the 25 uncomfortable mattress positions come in. But “Once Upon a Mattress” throws in some twists not found in “The Princess and the Pea.” To learn the twists, patrons will have to see the play for themselves.

In her second year at Spanish Springs High School, Bogard couldn’t be happier.

“I love it,” Bogard said of teaching theater at Spanish Springs. “I am so blessed to work in this theater.”

Bogard has been an artist in residence in Nevada since 1983. She also taught the dance and drama departments at Dilworth and O’Brien middle schools for two years. Now she’s using her professional experience from the theater field and the classroom to improve the Spanish Springs drama department.

“I’m working on building the theater and music culture here,” Bogard said.

And directing “Once Upon a Mattress” is just one step in that process.

“Fairy Tales are in,” Bogard said about why she chose “Once Upon a Mattress” as the spring musical. “It’s joyful and playful. And I like the music. It’s very pretty and fun.”

Bogard added that when selecting which plays to perform, directors have to greatly consider the talent they have.

“And (‘Once Upon a Mattress’) seemed to be a nice match for the voices we have,” Bogard said.

Not including the technical and sound crews, 30 students were cast for “Once Upon a Mattress.” Bogard said rehearsals began in February and that she works on the production six days a week. The students have also been putting in countless hours.

“I push them hard,” Bogard said. “I do challenging things with them. They don’t get to rest with me. I used to be at a certain professional level so I push them to those levels.”

And Bogard is confident all the hard work will pay off.

“I think it’s going to be good,” Bogard said.

The Spanish Springs High School theater and music departments will be performing “Once Upon a Mattress” April 24-26 and May 1-3 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $9 or $7 for students, seniors and Washoe County School District staff.
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