December 2008 - Rapid City Journal

Directing not 'all Greek' to ranch wife


By Milo Dailey, Belle Fourche Post/Bee

BELLE FOURCHE - The ancient Greeks loved to go to the theater and turned dozens of their myths into plays.


Emily Carr is made up for her portrayal of the Greek goddess Athena by director Reva Potter, left, and playwright Eileen Miller. The Belle Fourche Middle School production of Miller's play "It's All Greek to Me" runs Friday and Saturday, Feb. 16 and 17, at the Belle Fourche Area Community Center theater. (Milo Dailey/Belle Fourche Post/Bee)


That seemed like a good idea to Belle Fourche Middle School English teacher Reva Potter.

She already volunteered to direct the school's spring play and needed a script for the school's sixth- through eighth-graders.

But instead of buying rights from one of the nation's theatrical companies, she went to Eileen Miller, a Belle Fourche ranch wife who had been writing skits for youth groups at the United Methodist Church.

She got more than a play.

Miller also is an excellent seamstress who is designing and creating costumes, adding parts and rewriting characters to match about 40 students who auditioned for parts in the production.

Potter said Miller's play takes a bit from Shakespeare's bag of tricks and writes a play within a play as part of the fun.

"It's a modern-day setting," Potter said, "but the characters do four plays within the play."

Then there's Miller's son, Belle Fourche High School freshman Logan Miller, who wrote music that he, Marlo Kapsa, Spencer Schreier and Margo Ensz will perform with the play in a rock band. All but Marlo are freshmen at BFHS. She is an eighth-grader.

"They do a lot of original stuff," Eileen said of the band members.

The play is at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, and 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17, at the Belle Fourche Area Community Center theater.

Potter said the idea was to add some classical studies for the middle school

students as well as offer an opportunity to participate in theater.

"It's something to expand our school curriculum more," she said.

That was the idea. Miller's script went even further than that.

The mythic figures of Persephone, Demeter, Pandora and Arachne all figure in their own plays within the play.

Miller said the ancient Greeks played a major role in setting up much of today's everyday life - such as voting.

Potter is in her first year as director for the middle school play. Her "day job" is as a seventh grade language arts teacher.

She's especially happy with Miller as the playwright because it gives much more flexibility with the script. She could add or change parts on the fly.

That's exactly what happened as more students than expected showed up for auditions, and the cast was expanded to have about 40 students.

The play also has some slightly older folks to make things work. Sandi Hespe, school secretary, and parent Darren Messner are helping with sets and such.

Other parents are kicking in with their own skills for the production.

Miller seems an unlikely playwright, whether for church skits or a school play.

She and her husband ranch northwest of Belle Fourche, but the timing of a February production worked.

"We calve around April, so this is a good time," she said.

"I have written skits for our youth service up at the Methodist Church and Reva talked to me about a play."

The idea seemed interesting, and she had already written so many one-act skits that Potter said there is an eight-inch stack of scripts at the church that were proven to interest young people and entertain all ages.

Miller started the play at the beginning of the school year. It took about two months before there was a finished product.

"The modern day story wasn't too bad," she said, "But the Greek mythology meant I had to do some research. It's been a while since high school mythology."

But the product wasn't complete until Miller made revisions to fit students who would be in the cast.

The rock band?

Potter said the students like a jazz-blues sort of background, and they're already writing their own material - mostly Logan Miller's. He is increasingly known in the area as a budding songwriter and musician.

The band isn't the only batch of middle school students or alums who are involved.

Freshman Aaron Schanzenbach and sophomore Jeremiah Jones volunteered to help with staging and lighting.

One way or another, Potter said, it's a family-oriented play that should be fun for all ages to attend. All ages have pitched in to prepare for the production.

During the intermission Alpha Delta Kappa will have treats available - and that will help the sorority's scholarship program.

Miller was obviously having fun as she and student costumers worked on wardrobe for the play.

She watched Potter work with different groups of students and adults at the middle school's band room as they went about assignments to make posters, masks and costumes.

"She's great with the kids," Miller said of her play's director. "They're having fun."

Potter admitted that directing 40 middle school students in a new play is a bit of a stretch, "but they are doing a wonderful job."












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