Mouse That Roared breaks musical tradition for Upstage Productions

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Emma Zawislak (Duchess Gloriana the Twelfth of Grand Fenwick) runs through a scene during rehearsals for the Upstage Productions presentation of the Mouse That Roared at the EA Rawlinson Centre on Monday afternoon.

Large comedy production a different showcase for Ecole St. Mary High School

Ecole St. Mary High School’s Upstage Productions typically produces a musical for their second production of the school year, but this time they’re focusing on comedy with The Mouse that Roared.

Emma Zawislak who plays Duchess Gloriana the Twelfth of Grand Fenwick, said the production adapted to the ever evolving pandemic situation.

“It is usually a musical but because of COVID that kind of got in the way,” she explained. “By the time we got the okay for a musical we were already starting this.”

The production starts Wednesday at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre and runs until Saturday.

Garde 12 student Nick Dutchak, who plays Professor Kokintz, said the rehearsal time has been great, but they’re looking forward to performing in front of an audience.

“It’s been smooth riding so far,” Dutchak said. “We haven’t had any complications, which is nice. We are just all looking forward to getting on stage and performing.”

Dutchak is in a supporting role after being a lead in 12 Angry Jurors, which Upstage produced in the fall of 2021. Zawislak, meanwhile, is a veteran performer, but this is her first time as a lead.

“I’ve been doing musicals and plays since I was about seven. This is my fourth show with Upstage Productions,” she said.

Both Dutchak and Zawislak said audiences looking for a laugh will enjoy the performance.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Zawislak said. “It’s a comedy, so there are definitely a lot of laughs.”

“It will definitely be funny,” Dutchak addded.

The play was adapted by Chris Sergel and is directed by Jason Van Otterloo. Sergel originally developed it for the stage in 1963, basing it on a satirical Cold War novel of the same name by Leonard Wimberley.

“The show is about a little duchy, five miles by three wide called Grand Fenwick and we are kind of falling on hard times money wise,” Zawislak explained. “Fenwick decides to go and invade America and then by some chance we accidentally get our hands-on Nick’s (Professor Kokintz) bomb.

“We kind of become very powerful, very quickly and America has to try and get it back from us,” she added.

In this version, Dr. Kokintz is a physics professor at Columbia University and the arrival of Tully Bascomb’s invasion force coincides with a campus student protest. Thus, the Fenwick soldiers are mistaken for being eccentric protesters rather than as foreign invaders.

There are 45 people in total working on the production, with 26 in the cast and 19 in the crew.

Dutchak explained that the more people the better as far as he was concerned. Zawislak credited the whole crew for their work.

“Everyone is doing a really good job,” she said. “It’s awesome being able to just have everyone just come together and make something that we are all passionate about,” she said.

They both said that the purpose of Upstage Productions is to bring students out for something they can be passionate about. Dutchak was late to catching the theatre bug but now he has developed a passion.

“Now I’m a huge theatre kid,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome. I definitely would encourage more kids to try it out. You definitely see a new side of yourself that you have never seen before.”

There is also a piece in the play utilizing the archery skills of student Kamryn Dumais, who shoots an arrow live on stage.

“I think it is the first time something was actually shot on the stage to our knowledge,” Zawislak said.

Dumais earned cadet female compound silver in the target provincials in Prince Albert .

“(She is a) very skilled and talented archer,” Zawislak added.

Both actors said performing the play at the Rawlinson Centre is a great opportunity.

“Being able to act in a place like this is really cool. It’s awesome,” Zawislak said.

“It’s very surreal, you feel really professional, get mic-ed up and everything, going on stage is definitely a new experience,” Dutchak said.

The production features large pieces and great production values and both actors give credit to the backstage crew for their work. The stage manager is veteran Dori Miller who also lead the way on 12 Angry Jurors.

“Our techs are doing amazing. Our show would not be the same without the group of people we have being able to work behind the scenes and do this. They are a big part of the show,” Zawislak said.

“The techs do a great job with what they do because I definitely know I probably wouldn’t be able to do it.” Dutchak said.

Dutchak is looking forward to the play going live and hopes everyone enjoys the production. Both actors wished to recognize all the work that goes into a production like the Mouse That Roared.

“Just a big thanks to everybody that has helped out and everybody that has been a part of it. We definitely wouldn’t be able to do it without them and everyone,” Dutchak said.

“Yeah all of the support and all of the people that we are working with. It’s going to be a really good show,” Zawislak added.

The production will be from May 11 to 14 at the EA Rawlinson Centre with showtimes at 7:30 p.m. and a matinee production included.