The characters in Summit High School's production of "The Secret Garden" bring a forgotten space back to life and in the process the young actors are grow."I knew it was going to be at the top of their ability," said Lyndsey Simmons, Summit theater teacher and co-director of the show with Melissa Iverson. "I wanted them to get the experience of more classical music."In the classic book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 10-year-old Mary Lennox's parents die during a cholera outbreak in India."It sticks pretty close to the children's story," Simmons said. "We find out a little bit more about the adults in the show. Mary is sent to England to live with her uncle in a huge, creepy manor that is haunted by the ghosts of the past. (Her uncle) Archie lost his wife, who fell out of a tree in the garden. He locks his son away in the manor and locks away the garden."When Mary finds the key to the garden, she decides to make it her place."She brings it back to life," Simmons explains. "As the garden grows, all the characters begin to grow."The musical, which has almost 30 songs, a live orchestra and 13 dance numbers, puts the 32-member cast through its paces, requiring them to grow as actors.Fifteen-year-old Hannah Hackley, who plays Mary, had to learn a new skill, one she never thought she would need."Mary throws a lot of tantrums, which is something I could never get away with," she said. "They had to teach me, yeah, Tantrum Academy."Hackley doesn't just have to throw a fit, she has to do it in a different language - Hindi."She's had a pretty dark beginning," Hackley says. "Her mother rejected her from the beginning. Her father was the only person who ever showed any interest in her."That darkness is mirrored in the other occupants of the great house, including her uncle Archibald, portrayed by senior Camryn Nunley. Playing such a dark character takes work, Nunley said."I have to think about the bad things that have happened in the past," he admitted. "I have to be really focused."Even though the story has sad parts, it's a poignant tale, Nunley said."I like being able to touch someone's heart with just a story," he said.When Mary finds the garden, it saves her and the people around her, Hackley said."The garden is lying in wait for someone to care about it as much as Mary does," she said. "It's kind of a metaphor for the house."That includes her cousin, Colin, played by senior Anna Ateek, who has appeared in 16 productions at Summit High School. She said playing a boy is even more difficult than portraying a 10-year-old."I think this is my hardest character, playing a boy," she said, "having to remember the mannerisms.""The Secret Garden" is also her favorite."I think this is the best production that Summit has ever done," Ateek said.
The Secret Garden
7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
MISD Center for Performing Arts
1110 W. Debbie Lane
$7 adults, $5 students