By Rachele Stoops
Community Players, November 12, 7:30PM
Tyler Rinne’s mind is a scary place.
The associate director of Community Players in Beatrice, Tyler not only directed the newly opened Forest Paths, he wrote it. Which is especially impressive considering the variety of styles represented in this collection of short scenes.
The setting for the stories in Forest Paths is what you’d expect from the title – a winding path surrounded by dark and menacing woods. The staged forest is beautiful; a collection of life size cutout trees and a lingering fog that adds just the right amount of creepy to the stage, before the real creep even starts. The writer/director employs his own scary voice for the pre-show talk, ending in a truly terrifying laugh.
Forest Paths is performed by Community Players’ Acting Up program, an after school theatre experience for 5th through 8th graders. It’s obvious that the program is incredibly thorough; the actors had clearly worked on their stage movement, line readings, and most notably, the difficult practice of pausing for laughs. And there are a lot of laughs.
Forest Paths opens with a monologue that morphs into an ensemble when some especially creepy kids (why are kids so creepy?) provide a terrifying backdrop of eyes hidden in the forest.
The stories flow quickly, with just a moment of blackout and a title on a screen between them. The set pieces are moved by some of the smoothest stage managers I’ve ever seen. The costumes work perfectly without being overdone.
Once the audience is invited into the forest, the stories are impressively varied. The Frog King and the Immortal of Infinite Antlers (wearing boots I need to own) are tricked by a quick-thinking scout and his precocious little sister; a group of tweens heads into the forest to hunt and are surprised by what they find; a prize-winning young man and a monster find themselves in the same forest; some friends camping in the woods start to question who’s really with them.
Interspersed between the ensemble scenes are monologues that are not only really scary, but long enough that my middle-aged brain was agape at the memory skills of these actors! Some of them even rhyme.
Each actor plays several roles, complete with quick costume changes and the occasional accent. Standouts for me were “A Number of New and Disturbing Discoveries,” an exceptionally spine-chilling monologue, and “Billy Goat’s Bridge,” a scene full of both the hilarious and the macabre. I was also fascinated by “The Hundred-Year House,” and its alive and not-so-much alive characters.
I was thoroughly impressed with every aspect of Forest Paths, and I’m a little salty that I didn’t get to participate in a program like Acting Up when I was in middle school, thirty – I mean, fifteen or so years ago.
Community Players is building a talented and trained generation to ensure their mainstage will continue to be excellent for years to come.
If you go: Forest Paths is playing at Community Players in Beatrice, Nebraska, for two more shows: Saturday, November 13, at 7:30pm, and Sunday, November 14, at 2:00pm. Tickets are available online at https://www.beatricecommunityplayers.com/forest-paths. The show runs about one hour and forty minutes, with a ten minute intermission. Face coverings are required.
Rachele Stoops teaches high school English for the Graduation Pathways program at Lincoln Public Schools. She recently earned her doctorate in education, and is expecting a call any day now asking her to take over as Secretary of Education. Rachele currently lives a quiet life in a townhouse with her husband, Shane, and her curvy long-haired chihuahua, Cecil, as all of her children have grown up and moved out. Rachele spends her free time making lists and watching Ryan Reynolds movies.