The show, directed by Lenore Cambria (with an all- family sound and lights technical crew) was presented to healthy-sized crowds on August 6 and 7th at Hotchkiss Memorial Hall, demonstrating the local theater venue possibilities of the renovated 60-year-old community building.
The cast of a dozen mostly second and third graders, leavened with the steadier maturity of one fourth grader (the delightful Richey Rubinoff as Drover, Hank’s sidekick), a fifth grader (Andy Nyikos as Plato the Bird Dog) and the lead actor, sixth grader, Noah Silverstein doing a solid job of playing Hank, complete with long floppy, fuzzy ears.
Actually one of the standout performance came from second grader, Karlie Egging, whose paced restraint as Grandma (with cane, wig and glasses) was roll-on-the-floor funny. Another crowd favorite was third grader, John Loftley, as Tuerto, the one-eyed, killer stud horse, who also got to wear the coolest costume, a sort of miniature Zorro outfit complete with eyepatch.
Physical comedy, something that comes naturally to kids, rather than method acting, was the spice of the performances. Little kids in costume dashing about delivering lines, throwing plastic horseshoes, rolling on a fake dead skunk, and sometimes being a little nervous but in general seeming to have a great time––as did the audience. Cast members Izzi Houseweart, Logan Smith, Irene Shenk, Ava Taylor, Amilia Hickam, Trever Wingfield, and Indigo Miller-Barnes were also featured.
The Saturday night crowd was focused and appreciative and included a lot of parents, family, grandparents and cameras. It was also one of those rare valley events where attendance was marked by a wide range of the community, old timers, 1990’s arrivals, and newcomers. Ranchers, teachers, artists and organic farmers.
At intermission half of the crowd (after picking up a homemade brownie at the kid-run concession stand, went outside and visited around the front steps and ramp since the swamp coolers had been shut off during the performance due to the noise. Lots of small town neighboring going on.
By the finale and the line wrapping up the philosophy of the play, “If you’re lucky, you don’t need smart,” the dozen kids in the cast were ready to explode and let it all out by being allowed to leap from the stage and make a couple of laps at full speed through the audience.
Afterwards as we milled about, exchanging news before heading out into the cooling Hotchkiss evening, more than one small boy was crawling around on the maple floor pretending to be a dog. It wasn’t Broadway but it gave the Hotchkiss audience what it needed. Everyone left smiling.