Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · ‘Les Mis’ at Interlochen:...
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‘Les Mis’ at Interlochen: ‘No Way These are High School Students’

Hundreds auditioned from all over the country; only 40 got in.

Ross Boissoneau - July 28th, 2014  

Now the theater students at Interlochen Arts Camp have something even more special for their resume: performing in a full, original production of “Les Miserables.”

Auditions just to get in the six-week, $8,500 summer camp took place in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago, and Detroit this past year. Even more would-be campers sent in videos.

When those who made the cut arrived on campus in June, they went through another round of auditions for “Les Mis.”

This year, the two male leads are actually graduates of Interlochen Arts Academy who elected to attend the arts camp in hopes of performing in the production.

Staged at Corson Auditorium under the direction of Bill Church and Greg Hellems, this “Les Mis” will add some modern twists to the familiar 19th century French tale.

Hellems and Church have the experience to make that happen. Hellems is an associate professor of musical theater and acting at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. Church is head of the theater department at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Each summer, the two team up and immerse themselves and their students in that year’s production. Last year, it was “Oklahoma!” This year, Hellems says he and Church chose to present a production that would have greater familiarity to the cast as well as to the audience.

“We wanted to make sure to come back with something more contemporary,” he said.

The timeless story, the challenge of its non-stop singing, and its current fame have made “Les Mis” one of the most popular stage productions for actors and audiences alike.

“Almost every teen wants to be in Les Mis,” said Church.

Those familiar with only the film version will be able to follow the classic tale, which follows the lives and interactions of several characters, focusing on the struggles of hunted ex-convict Jean Valjean.

“People will recognize it, but it’s not exactly the same,” Hellems said.

The two men not only assist the students in learning their lines and singing the songs, but embracing the characters and the action.

“The material is very emotionally challenging. We deal with students who don’t have a lot of life experience,” Hellems said. “It’s a challenge for them to enter the world of the play.”

One of the challenges for the directors is keeping such a large ensemble on task.

“Sometimes I feel like an air traffic controller,” said Hellems with a laugh.

He says the goal is to introduce the students to the entire world of theater, from auditions to casting to rehearsal to curtain.

“I love the process of rehearsal,” Hellems said. “When we finally add the last component, the audience, we see how the actors adjust.”

While the journey is all about the students learning their craft, the end result is for the audience.

“I think people come to our musicals every year with high expectations,” said Church.

Even so, he says the entire team works hard to surpass those expectations.

“I think people will walk away thinking, ‘There’s no way they are high school students,’” he said. “That’s a common reaction.”

“Les Miserables” will be performed at Corson Auditorium July 31-Aug. 3. For more information, visit tickets.interlochen.org.

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