If you could turn back time, set the world on pause and right the wrongs written yesterday, would you? Therein lies the question of Ray Bradbury's novel "Dandelion Wine," an adaptation of which was performed recently by students at Hayfield Secondary School.
The story of young Douglas Spaulding as he approached the end of his final boyhood summer, "Dandelion Wine" was a surreal experience that chronicled Spaulding's tragic summer of 1928 and a meeting with William Forrester, a prophetic wanderer from years yet to come. It was a story about saying goodbye.
Despite its mature themes, Hayfield's cast achieved a profound sense of Bradbury's story. Both Spaulding (played by Greg Haugan) and his future counterpart, Forrester (Brian Braunlich), provided an unsettling experience, as the audience watched Forrester hopelessly try to alter his past as Douglas denied his changing future. Haugan's and Braunlich's performances were distinct and moving.
The people who made the greatest impact on Spaulding's life added new dimensions to the level of loss that Douglas and Forrester experienced. They were John Huff (Dale Placek), Ann Barclay (Julia Miller), Colonel Freeleigh (Silvano Melgar) and Leo Auffman (James Messenger).
In its technical aspects, "Dandelion Wine" had an eclectic feel. The lighting was used in such a way that it gave Spaulding's dream world a surreal air. Similarly, the original music compositions by Todd Hovey and Matt Scarborough created a soft atmosphere and a nostalgic mood. The set and props, which consisted of the bare skeletons of vehicles and homes, also helped accentuate the emptiness that was stressed through the growing loss in the lead characters.
"Dandelion Wine's" closing lesson was that despite the past, we are who we are, and that is inescapable. All we can do in the end is walk on.
Wakefield High School
To regain control of our own lives, it can sometimes be necessary to let go of people who keep us chained to the past. That lesson was conveyed in Hayfield Secondary School's recent production of Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine," a novel that has been adapted for the stage. To tell the story of Douglas Spaulding's coming-of-age, Hayfield combined cinematic and theatrical elements, producing a highly stylized and notably unique performance of a little-known drama.
The skeletal framework of the set gave the first indication of Spaulding's emotional isolation; each structure was a complex but fragile frame that mirrored Spaulding's ostensible success but inner emptiness. Spaulding, played by Greg Haugan, expressed this loneliness bravely and genuinely, showing a true sympathy for his younger self.
The older Spaulding, under the pseudonym of William Forrester (Brian Braunlich), returns to his childhood home of Green Town, Ill., to let go of demons that plague his adult life, only to find that he has returned to the summer of his 12th year. He learns to forgive himself for the death of his first unrequited love, Ann Barclay (Julia Miller); his alienation from a boyhood friend, John Huff (Dale Placek); and difficult relationships with other characters from his past.
A few outstanding performances raised "Dandelion Wine" as a whole to a higher level. Haugan showed extreme stamina in a taxing role, giving sincerity to sometimes nonsensical inner dialogues. Danny Yoerges was touching as the reminiscing Grandpa Spaulding, as was Collin Chute as Douglas Spaulding's younger brother, Tom. His precociousness always served to pick up the pace of the play, as did Brian Gartland's cameo performance as Mr. Sanderson, an enthusiastic shoe salesman.
The Hayfield crew incorporated numerous cinematic elements to fill out the overall look and feel of the production. A musical score, rear-projected slides and bold lighting were employed with varying degrees of effectiveness. The score, composed and recorded by the highly talented Todd Hovey and Matt Scarborough, contributed enormously to the lonesome tone and overall texture. The costumes, designed by Megan Carey, added to the illusion of a hot summer in the 1920s. The somewhat sloppy scene changes detracted some, however, from the technical prowess of the show.
The undertaking was a large one for Hayfield, but the final product showed not only the talent of its actors but also their commitment to the show.
West Potomac High School