The high school students of the FRC/dramaworks’ “Chicago” production, from left: Kiena Rose Van Pelt, Thea Nicholes, Emily Choate, Tristan McMichael, Sam Lawson, Sylvia Wood and Paloma Couoh. Photo submitted

The unsung students of theater

“Chicago” is over.

The long nights of rehearsals have come to an end. The manic rush of back stage costume changes, sound checks and such have ended, too. But for Chicago’s stage manager and crew, Lynette Choate, there’s one more thing that needs to be addressed before the spring FRC musical is packed up and a distant memory — the high school students — some at the last minute — who came together and made the show come alive for audiences.

Seven of the cast and band members were students at Quincy High School, Quincy Plumas Charter School, and home-schooled students.

“I think they deserve some recognition for their efforts. They put in long hours — much like a sports team — and they should really be acknowledged for it,” said Choate. “They really went all out and were super professional.”


Tristan McMichael was happy to be part of the band. “I recently did another show (“The Full Monty”) with Russ (Schmidt) and enjoyed playing stage music. I also participated because I love early ’20s jazz … I learned how to play flute just before the show and throughout the show I built up skill on five instruments: tenor sax, alto sax, soprano sax, clarinet and flute.”

Another member of the band, Sam Lawson, was also excited to play. He made the journey from Graeagle to play with the band. His mother, Suzi Brakken, remembers him telling her how inspired he was by the actors and the dancers because of the passion they had for the show. Lawson did the High Sierra Community Orchestra for several years.

“It had been a while since I had played for an audience and just thought I would give it a try. It was fun to work with people who were so passionate about and good at what they were doing. I enjoyed seeing the crowd and people I knew and was wondering each night who I would see next. It was an opportunity to see a lot of faces I hadn’t seen in a long time, “ said Lawson.

It also was a great opportunity for community service and a good college resume builder.


Sylvia Wood rounded out the high school-aged musicians and played piano, adding old-fashioned vaudeville sound effects to certain parts of the musical for dramatic effect.

For one student, Emily Choate, it was an opportunity to see the other side of production. She’s been with Magic Beanstalk Players for years on stage. This time she learned how to run the light board.

“I would definitely do it again. It was fun. I want to learn everything there is to learn about the entire theater production process. I learned that focus is key to keeping the lighting on the correct cue, and that gives the audience the best possible show. I also want to thank director Jeff Bryan for being so patient while he was teaching me,” said Choate.

Then came the acting side of things. Kiena Rose Van Pelt, Thea Nicholes and Paloma Couoh were all part of the ensemble supporting cast. They sang, danced and had lines as reporters here and there.


Van Pelt felt she built up her acting and singing skills by being in the show and received a great experience auditioning for something that did not have a guaranteed part.

Paloma Couoh acknowledged that theater can make you feel like you belong to another family — a theater family. She made the commute from Greenville daily at some points to be part of the show. She wants to pursue acting further and is enrolled at the Michelle Danner Studio in Santa Monica for summer acting classes.

Nicholes has been acting at the West End Theatre for five years. “This show allowed me to show off my dancing skills which I did not know I had until we started rehearsals. Being part of the theater has made me closer to my community and has opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities,” said Nicholes.

All the high school students are eager to be a part of community-wide productions again soon.


“You get to hang out with and get to know cool people — not just people from your school,” said Couoh.

Some teachers and staff from Quincy High could be seen in the audience each night as well as a few from Charter. The students liked knowing their teachers were there to support them.

“Their schools might not recognize what hard work this extracurricular activity is for them. They did this all while going to school every day,” said the stage manager.

The FRC musical takes place the first two-week ends of May each year. Students in the acting class receive college credit for the show.