CASEY -- Junior high choir students at Casey-Westfield are preparing to bring a time in local history to life on stage and make a bit of history themselves.
The junior high school choir is scheduled April 30-May 1 to be the first group to perform "A Stitch In Time," a new musical created by Earl and Elizabeth Halbe of Charleston. The musical is set circa 1912 in a fictional small town that is based on communities in Clark and Coles counties.
Halbe, an adjunct acting instructor at Lake Land College in Mattoon, previously wrote "A Question of Loyalty" for last year's commemorations of the 150th anniversary of the Charleston Riot and "An Evening at Ford's Theatre: April 14, 1865" for a recent program at Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site.
East Central Illinois' rich history has been a good source of inspiration for him to write plays, Halbe said. "A Stitch In Time" was inspired by Grand Ball Costumes owner Jayne Ball-Saret saying she wanted to write a play about the number of women who have rented a fancy gown over the years, he said.
"That gave me the idea to write a play about a hand-me-down dress that is passed down through several generations of a family," Halbe said.
The resulting musical is about a young girl who has been given a dress by her mother, who had received it from her own mother. The girl, Millie Henderson, uses the dress to remind herself during life's harsher moments that she can do anything she puts her mind to accomplishing.
"There are three local references in the play to give it more of a local flavor," Halbe said. The musical references Marshall and a Brown Shoe Factory location, and includes a male lead named Todd Humboldt.
Halbe said "A Stitch in Time" was originally going to be a class project for a Lake Land workshop in summer 2012, but this workshop ended up not being held. Halbe said he kept on developing "A Stitch In Time," with music written by his wife, for possible use by youth theater or community theater groups.
The playwright then suggested that his fellow Charleston Community Theatre performer Charity Ozier have her junior high choir students at Casey-Westfield perform the finished musical.
Ozier said the one-act musical is a good fit for her novice performers. She added that the junior high choir's theater experience is typically limited to taking part in the high school's spring musical.
"They are really excited (that 'A Stitch In Time') gets to be just theirs," Ozier said. She added that, "It's fun to know we are the first to actually perform this musical. It's a cool experience."
Ozier said she has gotten all of her more than 35 junior high choir students involved in "A Stitch in Time" as a class project. She said 14 students will be playing roles in the production, which has eight musical numbers.
The other students have been assisting with set designing, directing, working backstage, advertising, and selling tickets, as well as with the production's music and choreography.
"They have had the experience of learning about how all the backstage stuff works," Halbe said.
Performances of "A Stitch in Time" are scheduled for 7 p.m. April 30 and May 1 at the Turner Arts Hall in Casey. Tickets are $5 each for adults and $3 each for students.