Western students create “Hansel and Gretel” virtual storybook

By Michelle Cordonnier

October 23, 2012

[caption id="attachment_13162" align="alignnone" width="300"] "Hansel & Gretel"[/caption] The modern day “Hansel and Gretel” is more than just a fairy tale; it has become a "virtual storybook." Beginning Nov. 2, 3 and 4, Missouri Western’s arts and theatre department will present “Hansel and Gretel” as a virtual storybook. "Hansel and Gretel," directed by professors Susan Carter and Eric Fuson, will host three performances at Potter Hall on Friday Nov. 2 at 7 p.m., Saturday Nov. 3, at 3 p.m. and Sunday Nov. 4 at 3 p.m. The cast and crew have been on a shortened touring production through the local elementary schools, and later will be going to other parts of Missouri, specifically the Kansas City area. Students and instructors from Western’s art, animation, music, and theatre departments have joined forces this fall to produce a performance combining opera, animation, arts, and performance touring. This fall’s performance will not be the typical Broadway musical, but the virtual re-telling of a centuries old fairy tale. The cast will bring the "Hansel and Gretel" fairy tale to life, using operatic musical numbers, the animation of props, artistic scenery and a very talented cast. “We have quite a few talented students at Missouri Western, so the production of “Hansel and Gretel” is great," Carter said. "It’s a combination of all the arts. We have three national finals music students at Missouri Western.” The 3-D animation was produced by Western students on a computer animation program named Maya, which is also used in the production of Pixar films. Art instructor Fuson was amazed by the program and the concept of doing an animated-touring production. “It is a very different experience for me," Fuson said. "I am amazed at what these students can do nowadays. The idea of touring the schools and showing the kids what kind of things that are done with art, the career choices they can have in the art world really inspires me." The two Western students most heavily involved in the animation process for “Hansel and Gretel” are Truman Vasko and Danny Janovec. These students designed the “Witch’s House” and all the other 3-D animation using the Maya program. Animation instructor Peter Hriso guided the pair throughout the process of designing the 3-D sets using a computer animation program. Three separate screens will display the animated affects of their bringing the story “Hansel and Gretel” to life. “Something on stage will be moving at all times,” Carter said. “The art department does a great job of helping to bring the story and the music to life.” Western’s version of “Hansel and Gretel” offers a multitude of talent, many art students, music students, and theater students spent months preparing for the performance. Western art students were involved in the design and production of backdrops and scenery. The scenery and backdrops, as well as the real projection on the animation screens will depict visions of the hovel in which Hansel and Gretel lived, that fades to a wooded area, and then moves to the evil witch’s house. Theatre and music students make up the cast of “Hansel and Gretel;” Jacob Mills has been cast as "Hansel," and Adrienne Collins plays the character of "Gretel." Sarah Waters and Daniel Brooks play the roles of "Mother" and "Father.," Ian Fast is the “Sandman,” student musician Kaitlyn Christian is the “Dew Fairy” and the character of the “Evil Witch” is student actor Jeremy Howe. The vocal opera music is accompanied by Ara Ju and Donovan Jones on piano as a two-piano orchestra. Many hours of practice went into the construction of a project this big. The combination of all the arts is a massive production that involved many people and an amazing amount of talent. The professors worked well with each other and felt that the show would be a great inspiration of creativity to the children of the elementary schools they will tour, as well as the Potter Hall audience on Nov. 2, 3 and 4. This is only the second time that Fuson has worked with a production that included digital animation. While digital animation is still a new program at Western, students and professors alike are already thinking of the next step -- the next production. “This is even better than a 3-D movie."