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20 years of imagination: Skeleton Crew Theater to perform at art festival Saturday

Skeleton Crew Theater to perform at art festival Saturday

  • Noah Cordonnier-Padilla, and Justin Wyman, costumed as trolls, rehearse a scene Wednesday in the Skeleton Crew Theater’s performance. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. recorder staff/matt burkhartt

  • Jonathan Chappell, Skeleton Crew Theater producer, makes an adjustment to a witch costume worn by Alora Deforge, Wednesday, April 27. Jenna Hackett, in costume, is in the foreground. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. RECOrder staff/matt burkartt

  • Sadie Pelletier, director of the Skeleton Crew Theater’s production, makes costume adjustments to Jenna Hackett’s costume before a run-through of their performance, Wednesday. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. RECORDER STAFF/MATT BURKHART

  • Chase Blair, and Noah Cordonnier-Padilla, cast members in the production of Skeleton Crew Theater, rehearse a scene with Carlie Kretchmar, Alora Deforge, and Jenna Hackett, who are costumed as witches, Wednesday, April 27. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Carlie Kretchmar, Alora Deforge, Jenna Hackett, costumed as witches, and Jonathan Chappell, producer of the production, Skeleton Crew Theater, participate in a run-through of the performance Wednesday April 27. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Chase Blair, portraying a troll, participates in a run-through of the production of Skeleton Crew Theater Wednesday, April 27. The production is directed by Sadie Pelletier, and produced by Jonathan Chappell. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Costumes used in the Skeleton Crew Theater's production lay on the lawn on Chappell Drive in Gill, where they rehearse, Wednesday, April 27. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Jenna Hackett emerges from her witch costume during a run-through of the Skeleton Crew Theater's performance Wednesday, April 27. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Sadie Pelletier, director of the production, Skeleton Crew Theater, and Justin Wyman, a cast member, make adjustments to the witch costumes worn by, Carlie Kretchmar and Alora Deforge Wednesday, April 27. Jenna Hackett plays the third witch, in the foreground. The cast is preparing for performances at Fireseed Arts in Framingham this weekend. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Friday, April 29, 2016

GILL — In a land far, far away there are talking trees and red-faced trolls wearing burlap sacks.

These creatures are the Skeleton Crew Theater, a group of performers who gather in a backyard off Route 2 every week to practice a theater routine. The group has been featured at Franklin County events including, Mutton & Mead and the Garlic & Arts Festival.

This weekend they are taking their act to ArtWeek Boston in Framingham, an award-winning arts festival that features more than 100 creative experiences for audiences to enjoy.

The act the Skeleton Crew Theater will perform is part scavenger hunt and part theater. Participants, accompanied by a guide called “The Seer,” are led through a forest, filled with characters. Along the way, participants can choose to interact with the cast, gather clues and artifacts, and ultimately determine the ending of the show.

Trent Huggins is one of the first trolls the audience will meet as he tries to remember the password to his brew machine. He is a barefoot troll with a baby face, weighing in at only 300 pounds.

The performers who play the cast of characters are mostly students from Turners Falls High School. They spend hours every week strapped inside their puppet costumes.

With grace, they carry their mostly foam-based costumes on their backs, strapped in using hiking backpacks. Sometimes the costumes can be a little cramped or a little warm inside, but that doesn’t get in the way of the performers. They can barely see the outside world, but still manage to take their audience to a realm where monsters roam and skeletons talk.

“There is magic in the world and it’s hard to find, but when you find it, it means something,” said Jonathan Chappell, the theater’s director and a Turners Falls High School teacher.

The cast of characters includes Willyum Higgins, a 250-year-old troll, the youngest of the troupe of New English trolls. He is taller than the rest, standing at 8.5 feet and strikingly lean at only 500 pounds. There is also “Hex” the spider, known for devouring her male offspring.

These are just a few of the characters that the group of about a dozen performers spent at least two hours perfecting and polishing in the two weeks leading up to their show in Framingham. Chappell said the show is a labor of love.

The puppets are the product of 20 years of imagination and reinvention, said Chappell, who has taught digital film at the high school for about eight years. He said the theater troupe gives kids who might not be involved in sports a place outside of school to belong.

There are growing pains and sometimes there are rough moments, but the goal is to have a good time. “It’s not that fun when it’s 90 degrees in the middle of the summer and a kid spills orange soda on you,” said Jenna Hackett, 17. She is a junior at Turners Falls High School, but in her spare time she is the blue witch in the Skeleton Crew Theater.

The pointed nose witch mask, along with a handful of other characters, where built with a combination of foam, plastic piping, Christmas bulbs for eyes and yarn for hair.

“It’s fun. It’s good stress,” said Hackett, who joined the crew about three years ago. After high school, she hopes to attend Greenfield Community College to study art.

The inspiration for the show started with a scarecrow that Chappell crafted when he was in fourth grade. When the scarecrow was falling apart, he buried it in his backyard on Chappell Drive in Gill.

One morning his parents told him that the police had found the scarecrow in the woods, and thinking that it was a missing woman, tried to resuscitate it.

From that moment on, he thought that if he could fool people with a scarecrow, why not create more creatures.

To buy tickets to the show on Friday and Saturday, visit:

bit.ly/23aTW5A

You can reach Lisa Spear at
lspear@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 280