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Performance of ‘Butterfly’ nominated for Elly Awards

Rising Senior Geneva Hemmert presented an Elly Award nominated performance as Raja in last year’s “I Never Saw Another Butterfly” production. Photo by Maddie Meilinger

Although the Bear River theater program was only able to present one production during the 2019-2020 school year, I Never Saw Another Butterfly was brought into the spotlight as an impactful and moving story, receiving eight Elly Award nominations.

Such nominations were awarded to numerous students and staff members including rising Senior Geneva Hemmert for her leading female role as Raja and rising Junior Griffen Dresbach-Hill for his leading male role as Honza. Other students and staff nominated include rising Senior Ava Graham and Bear River Alumni Robyn Means for Costume Design, Theater teacher Sara Noah for Directing, rising Senior Noah Mann and Theater Tech teacher Erin Beatie for Lighting Design, Bear River Alumni Autumn Brendon for Set Design, and Bear River Alumni Leo Jackson for her Supporting Female role. Bear River High School was also nominated for Overall Production.

Mrs. Noah described her reaction towards the news.

“I’m very excited and pleased,” she said. “This was a tremendous show, truly a collaborative effort on the part of so many students, staff, and teachers … [including] the Tech Theater classes, Drawing and Painting Classes, Graphic Design Class, as well as dance to put all the pieces together.”

She continued to elaborate upon why she believed I Never Saw Another Butterfly was a “tremendous” show.

“I think this show was quite unique and powerful and dealt with a difficult issue: The Holocaust,” she said. “It was staged in a very creative way with sets and lights. The actors did a great job with emotion, connection, and so much spoken word poetry, which is challenging as well. I’m so proud of everyone who was involved with this show … It was a powerful experience, and I was so glad we were able to put on this production.”

Hemmert expressed her surprise towards her nomination.

“The moment I opened my phone to a text from [Bear River Alumni] Katie Desplancke that I was nominated, I went from complete speechlessness to not being able to contain my excitement whatsoever!” she said. “I was so caught off guard because it has almost been a year since the play and it wasn’t on my mind. This nomination just makes me so proud of the work everyone did in order to touch the hearts of so many people.”

Graham described how she “put a lot of effort into the costume work,” which is reflective over her nomination.

“What I enjoy about costume design is all of the thought and creativity put into it for that certain style, like the 1940’s,” she explained.

Hemmert elaborated on the importance of lessons she has learned from participating in theater.

“Theater is one of the best ways to gain empathy,” she said. “I think the only great actors are those who are open-minded, kind hearted, and empathetic to others. With those attributes, I believe an actor can act in any role and be successful.”

Taking her own advice to heart, Hemmert continued to describe her devotion to the portrayal of Raja.

“I truly did work so hard to understand Raja and her experiences,” she said. “She was a real and breathing person, and had real and authentic feelings and reactions and beliefs. For someone to be nominated, they really have to give their character their all and put aside any personal anger, happiness, fear, any feelings that would not match your character’s in that moment.”

She also elaborated upon the lessons she had learned from Raja’s story.

“Raja taught me about endurance, hope, fear, faithlessness, and family love,” she said. “These are all things I have experienced myself. I think everyone has encountered these, but in trying to understand Raja, I began to really gain an understanding of depth for these feelings and choices in life and the importance of them.”

Hemmert continued to describe how this lesson affects her life.

“A lot of people know I have ten siblings, six who were ‘gifted’ to me through a divorce and marriage,” she said. “Just imagining losing them like Raja did her family has helped me to really cherish every moment with them.”

Mrs. Noah commented on how she hopes these nominations will affect the theater program.

“I hope that people will learn that we have a vital and exciting theater program here at Bear River,” said Mrs. Noah. “ … We [she and Mrs. Beatie] love working together and helping young people get as excited about theater as we are … Doing live theater is a lot of work, but so very rewarding and creates unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experiences … We are a tight knit, fun, accepting family who like to create together.”

Hemmert reiterated upon this belief of hard work yielding to an unforgettable time.

“Personally, the rehearsals for this play were really taxing on me mentally and emotionally; it’s such a heavy play to be working on every single day,” she said. “But the moment we were performing, it was so exhilarating and worth every tear in the end.”

Mrs. Noah commented on her pride towards the cast, designers, and crew.

“I am often humbled when I finish directing and producing a piece at high school and see the performances,” she said. “I so often forget that these talented young people are still in high school! They can do amazing things if allowed the room to create, learn, and grow through artistic expression.” 

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Performance of ‘Butterfly’ nominated for Elly Awards