Students bring ‘Seussical’ musical to USD
5 mins read

Students bring ‘Seussical’ musical to USD

The characters and worlds created by Dr. Seuss will soon be coming to life at the University of South Dakota.

“Seussical,” featuring many of Dr. Seuss’ classic books, will be performed April 16 to April 19, and April 22 to April 27 in the Wayne S. Knutson Theatre in the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts. The musical play is $5 for USD students who bring their student IDs.

Callie Hisek, director of the musical, said this is her first play at USD as an interim instructor. She has been planning the show since October when she met with her design crew.

“Being a director requires thoroughly reading the script several times, since every time you read it something new comes to mind,” Hisek said. “Then you start the collaborative process with your design team. From there you have to find a sort of line to bring the play together.”

Hisek said this can be one of the most challenging parts of the process, since everyone comes to the table with differing ideas and opinions.

“It’s a lot of research and listening and collaborating with your design team,” Hisek said.

Once a concept is nailed down, the set building crews — who create the actual sets used in the show — come into the process.

Scott Mollman, a professor of design technology and the production manager for the show, said he takes all of the drawings for how the sets are designed and turns them into construction drawings. Then he and his students build the sets.

Jill Clark, a senior and the props manager for “Seussical,” works on the Horton Tree in preparation for the upcoming musical. Malachi Petersen / The Volante

“The specialty projects like the Horton Tree, that’s more of an automation, I built it by myself,” Mollman said. “This Horton Tree has been a lot of fun to build. The tricky part of the tree is that it has to be up in the air when the bird sits on it and then it has to flex down when Horton sits on it. But the nest on the tree has to stay level. So I came up with this idea that flexes the branch up and down. It’s still in progress but the machine part is there,” Mollman said.

Mollman said the people who work behind the scenes love helping to create the world of Dr. Seuss’ imagination.

“(My favorite part of this job is) making all of this magic happen,” Mollman said

Mollman said there’s a sense of competition to be just as good as schools of larger population who have larger production budgets.

“I really like doing it for the audience,” Mollman said.“It’s nice to put on these big productions that are on par with bigger productions. We really push ourselves to put the product out there.”

Austin Vetter, a first-year musical theatre major, is portraying Horton the elephant in the musical. The actors for the show were selected in January and have been preparing since then.

“(I prepare for my role by doing) a lot of vocal things, I sing a lot. I also get into the emotions of the show,” Vetter said.

Senior Ceci Quintero is also acting in “Seussical.” She will be playing Horton’s neighbor, Gertrude McFuzz.

“She is a very plain, kind of girl-next-door, she ends up having a feisty personality with a lot of spirit,” Quintero said. “I think with this play it’s more about fun and spontaneity, and is going to really depend on audience response.”

Quintero said one of the challenges of acting in the musical is the pressure on the actors to portray characters from lovable childhood stories.

“(The musical is) so silly and I think being able to bring characters kids know from books and stories to life and creating that world is really intimidating but also really freeing as an actor,” Quintero said.

She said while she is passionate about her work, the most rewarding part of the process is seeing how the audience reacts to the performance.

“Making people laugh (is my favorite thing about acting),” Quintero said.

Acting is also one of Vetter’s passions in life as well.

“My favorite part of being in ‘Seussical’ is probably how fun the show is. It’s all zany and fun rhymes and fun music. I also like being able to take someone in the audience and have the show be an escape for them,” Vetter said.

Hisek said directing the musical is enjoyable because of the people she works with.

“I love the audition process, because I always have an idea of how I see a character, how I hear a character. I love being surprised by what the actors bring,” Hisek said. “It’s quirky and fun, and if you love Dr. Seuss you’ll love this.”

(Photo: Villagers of Whoville, played by University of South Dakota students, practice their lines during a rehearsal April 9 in the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts. Malachi Petersen / The Volante)