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Saturday, February 16, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Aspire Community Theatre ends inaugural season with “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”

Aspire Community Theatre came to be almost without Artistic Director Trigger Weddle’s say so.

After she and North Idaho’s chapter of Christian Youth Theater, where she was artistic director for six years, went in different directions, Weddle was away from theater for about six months until a few local families stepped in.

“There were some passionate families that felt like I needed to get back in the saddle,” Weddle said. “They met and they pretty much said ‘You’re doing this’ and made me artistic director.”

To raise seed money for its first production, “Little Shop of Horrors,” Weddle wrote and Annette Nolting directed and choreographed a show called “Dancing Through the Ages,” which Aspire Community Theatre performed at retirement homes and assisted living communities.

The theater followed “Little Shop of Horrors” with “Catch Me If You Can.”

A year later, Weddle and a small board of directors are completing preparations for their third production, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” which continues its run Friday.

The musical, directed by Kasey Davis, is based on the Mark Twain novel of the same name and follows Tom Sawyer (Zach Johnston) as he interacts with his Aunt Polly (Hannah Melton), his half-brother Sidney Sawyer (Gregory Schaefer), his crush Becky Thatcher (Dennie Thorpe) and, of course, Huckleberry Finn (Trenton Klinkefus).

The cast also features Casey Weeks (Ben Rogers), Aidan Headley (Joe Harper), Sergei Ethridge (George Bellamy), Phillip Connelly (Jim Hollis), Sophie Steiner (Amy Lawrence), Caitlin Mullaly (Lucy Harper), Reese Weddle (Sabina Temple), Kiara Klinkefus (Susie Rogers), Daniel Connelly (Judge Josiah Thatcher), Phil Tesone (Doc Robinson/Gideon Wain Temple, Defense Attorney), Paul Connelly (Lanyard Bellamy/Rev. Joshua Sprague, Mayor and Prosecutor), Daniel Lynch (Injun Joe), Seth Weddle (Muff Potter/Pap Finn), Austin Moore (Sheriff), John Connelly (Hartley Wood), Jessica Peterson (Widow Douglas), Linda Dobbins (Kynzie Washington), Halle Schmitt (Sereny Harper), Mary Connelly (Jessica Rogers), Erin Allsup (Naomi Hollis) and Nikki Cicero (Sally Bellamy).

This production almost didn’t happen, as Weddle originally wanted to produce “Cry-Baby,” a musical based on the John Waters film of the same name.

Weddle decided to go in a more family-friendly direction after seeing a production of “Beauty and the Beast” produced by Out of the Shadows Theater, which pairs actors with special needs and able-bodied actors.

“Tom Sawyer” offers something for all audiences. “It’s got adult problems, young people, a little bit of everything,” Weddle said.

As part of its conservatory approach to theater education, Aspire Community Theatre hires creative members of the community, choreographer Ali Day and stunt coordinator Chris Tortora, for example, to teach its performers during rehearsals.

As is to be expected, finances proved the most challenging when Weddle and the board of directors was finding its footing.

Also challenging is the lack of a permanent home, meaning Aspire has to rent out rehearsal and performance venues in places like the Eagles Lodge, Silver Lake Mall and the Salvation Army Kroc Center.

“It’s a blessing and a curse because we’ve made connections we didn’t know existed,” Weddle said.

Renting rehearsal and performance spaces has also helped the actors and crew fine tune the practice of moving into a venue and setting up quickly, though Aspire is still working to develop the technical side of production, currently handled by set designer Jon Allsup and his wife, Cathy.

With the premiere of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Weddle and Aspire Community Theatre are already looking forward to next season, when the theater plans to produce “Young Frankenstein,” “Sweet Charity” and “Children of Eden.”

“Between those three larger production and the smaller things we do like singing the national anthem, and we’re going to offer master classes in things like audition technique, our future looks really bright,” Weddle said.

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