MARSHALL - Sometimes you may have to get out of your comfort zone, or get off the fence to find true meaning in your life. That's the message that Marshall Area Christian School students will reveal when they present "Donkey Tales."
Approximately 100 elementary school students will share the stories of Balaam's donkey, the Good Samaritan and Jesus riding into Jerusalem, teaching others about obedience, love and humility at 7 p.m. today and Friday.
"If you are sitting on the fence, are you fully letting God be boss of your life, or are you teetering on the edge, that's the main message," production team member Angie Kesteloot said. "Once you jump in with both feet, God can use you. All the stories, he'll use whatever it takes to draw you in."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Marshall Area Christian School students Matthew Anderson, Kyle Murphy, Kianna Prins, Natalee Sample and Odessa Knochenmus rehearse a scene from “Donkey Tales.”
During tryouts, 17 elementary students were chosen as cast members, including lead characters Ellie Harrison (Tex Arkana), Odessa Knochenmus (Olivia), Amber Tholen (Madison), Kianna Prins (Mattie) and Natalee Sample (Spice).
"The hardest part is making sure I stay in character," Harrison said. "It's supposed to be like a western person, and she's kind of crazy. She likes to tell a lot of stories and stuff to these people and try to get people to know who God is."
Harrison worked hard to develop a strong southern accent, as did Knochenmus and Tholen, who play characters who are returning to Tex's Dude Ranch.
"Olivia loves Donkey Tales, which are the stories that Tex reads," Knochenmus said. "She's been to the ranch before, and she really likes it there."
Tholen portrays Madison, who is Olivia's best friend.
"I think the play is cool," Tholen said. "Madison's favorite thing to do when she's at Tex's place is to read off the brochure. She loves reading things. She's sort of shy, too."
Other characters undergo transformations while attending the dude ranch.
"My character is Mattie, and she's a city girl," said Prins, whose costume includes sunglasses. "At the beginning, she's sassy, and she doesn't want to be at the ranch with her friend Spice. But during the play, I get more into it, and we accept Jesus. It's really fun."
Sample wears a dressy scarf as part of her costume.
"I'm Mattie's friend, and we come from the city," she said. "We kind of get annoyed at first about the ranch and everything. And I don't really know how to dress like a western person. In the middle, we become Christians."
Harrison said she thought each of the five roles fit the girls' personalities well.
"I'm kind of odd, in a good way," she said. "Kianna is a drama queen, so that was perfect for her. And those two are kind of rowdy sometimes and also laidback, so all our roles kind of fit us."
Elijah Bader portrays Balak, while Tim Boersma is cast as Balaam and Zoe Hulsizer as the angel.
"Once you choose him, God can us you," Harrison said during rehearsal on Tuesday.
Isaac Harrison is cast as the donkey, Matthew Anderson as the lawman, Kyle Murphy as Jesus, Elise Meseck and Jesse Falconer as robbers, Dawson Kesteloot as the wounded man, Jordan Graupmann as the preacher, Darian Ross as the teacher and Bryson Whyte as the Good Samaritan.
"Everything God did for us, showed his love for us," Ellie Harrison said. "I have a lot of donkey tales, and they're all true."
As one of many production team members who pitched in produce Donkey Tales, Kesteloot is in charge of the acting, props and backdrop design. Though weather threw a little bit of a curve ball into the schedule, she believes the students are ready to present the musical.
"It's always amazing how the kids and everything just snaps together," she said. "You always think you'll never be ready. It's really cool how they rise to the occasion. They really want to honor the Lord."
Thanks to Cindy Prins, Erin Walerius and Sheri Sternke, who volunteered to direct the music, audience members will likely be delighted by the country, western swing, bluegrass and rockabilly style selections that include: "The Voice of God," "The Law of the Land," "Close Enough to Touch Him," "You Are My King" and "Hodel-odel-odel-osanna!"
Each K-6 classroom teacher choreographed a song for the musical to go along with the full-group choir. In addition, students had the chance to tryout for solos.
"It's a great opportunity for them to be confident and use the gifts that God gave them," Kesteloot said.
While Steve Harrison and Jett Skrien run the lights and sound, Lori Skrien takes care of costumes. Carmen Graupmann, Jenny Greenhoff and Kesteloot are in charge of makeup.
"I like that Donkey Tales has the western flair," Kesteloot said. "There's a little bit of line-dancing, and all the boys will get little whiskers drawn on their faces. The girls will get freckles and have braids in their hair."
Kesteloot noted that it takes a large number of volunteers to pull off a musical performance each year, and that she thoroughly appreciates the efforts shown.
"It's usually a whole staff production, where everybody pitches in the last few weeks," she said. "We work as a team."
Kesteloot also pointed out the much-appreciated help from parents and grandparents, including Don Votava, who built sawhorses, Barry Metheny, who built flats to use for painting, and Gene and Eileen Schrunk, who donated items to use for decorating.
"Everyone steps up and helps," Kesteloot said. "It's such a blessing."