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“Elvis and the Squirrels”: Student-written, directed, and performed

The “Elvis and the Squirrels” cast and crew.

On Saturday, Jan. 20, Ankeny High School’s Winter play followed Elvis and his band The Squirrels as they competed in The New Nut City Battle of the Bands. The play was directed by seniors Carter Evans and Bekkah Sherman and was written, directed, and performed by students.

“Elvis and the Squirrels” was an original idea constructed by seniors Carter Evans and Vivian Wu. Some of the most key cast members include junior Jett Tyler as Elvis, the leader of the band, and his two other band members George W. Busch played by junior Leah Hatch, and Salvador played by sophomore Luca Fratella. The play also hosted a rival band, The Squirrelettes, played by junior Samantha Bryan, senior Lilyan McCracken, and junior Evan Huegel. The play focused on delivering a goofy plot including vehicular manslaughter, spiritual blessings, and a showdown between rival bands among much more.

“Sophomore year I learned about the winter play with seniors directing it and me and Vivian Wu came up with the idea of an Alvin and the Chipmunks musical… it kind of just evolved from there,” Evans said.

Elvis and his band practicing for the battle of the bands. (Vivian Wu)

Despite the writing of the play being over three years of labor for directors, it was all put together within a matter of two months by the cast and crew, who alone had to design and construct the entire set. Not only were there 17 actors and actresses, but also 18 crew members ranging from costume creation to graphic design.

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“Production started during December or November and it was kind of a hassle getting everything figured out,” Evans said. “At the beginning it was a little worrying, but eventually we figured out everything. [Without] all the students, crew, cast, we couldn’t have done it without them.”

Along with director Carter Evans, many more cast members were thrilled with the final result, even succeeding past their original expectations.

“The play went really well. I think it was 98 percent successful, which is a really good number considering everything that can go wrong with the production,” senior Jake Haines said. “It was a really fun show. I think the audience really loved it and I think that it was a lot more receptive than we thought it would be.” 

Alvin picks up an acorn while a car drives towards him. (Vivian Wu)

Many in the cast felt this production was not just a school play, it was a point of pride for them and AHS as a whole. Haines has spent his last two years at AHS, participating in plays, musicals, choir, and show choir. Along with Haines, many more in the cast feel pride in the work they have put in and the final product of the play. Lead Jett Tyler is a perfect example of this hard work as he has put in some of the most rehearsal time out of the whole cast.

“I had the most lines and I had another play on top of this, so I had to go back and forth between them and working with everyone, being on stage for 99 percent of the entire play,” Tyler said. “Just a lot of work, coming to practice every day, and putting in a lot of hours in.” 

“Elvis and the Squirrel’s” main cast end pose. (Vivian Wu)

It is not always easy to be in the winter play or any theatrical productions throughout the year, however, according to everyone in the department, a positive and welcoming community makes it worthwhile.

“I love how inclusive the theatre department is. I have made my strongest connections through theater and I think everyone in the department is just really good at bringing everyone together,” Haines said. “I think everyone feels loved even if you are cast, crew, or you have a smaller role than someone else, everyone feels the enjoyment.”  

“Elvis and The Squirrels” was the theater department’s most recent accomplishment, but there are many more to come. You can catch them performing the spring musical, “Anything Goes” this April.

“I’m very happy,” Evan said. “I was a little worried at the beginning of the week, but they turned it around and were able to put on a great show.” 

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About the Contributors
Julius Wiegand, Staff Reporter
Julius Wiegand is a junior at Ankeny High School. He runs in cross country, track, and is a member of Ankeny Singers, and Ankeny's varisty show choir, Visual Adrenaline. He plans to attend a four year university after high school. Julius enjoys playing guitar, lifting weights, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family.
Ryan Tomlinson, Staff Reporter
Ryan Tomlinson is a junior at Ankeny High School who is involved in baseball, track and field, show choir, concert choir, Key Club, and FBLA. Ryan works in the social media field of The Talon and looks forward to Advanced Journalism. In the future, Ryan looks to major in sports communication. A fun fact about Ryan is he loves to swim anytime, anywhere.
Vivian Wu, Web/Print/Multimedia Editor; Videographer
Vivian Wu is a senior at Ankeny High School. She serves as co-web/print/multimedia editor and specializes in multimedia for The Talon. Outside of The Talon, Vivian is president of C.O.R.E., plays center snare for marching band, plays drums for Visual Adrenaline, is a member of the Mayor’s Youth Council, and helps lead Reel Ankeny Productions.
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