Listen to this post
Something Rotten! features minstrels, musicals and the ‘provocative parading of eggs’
MEEKER | Meeker Arts and Cultural Council (MACC) officially turns 10 this year, and the organization is celebrating in a big way with the return of community theater. The organization, founded by Laurie and Gary Zellers and other interested citizens in early 2011, has produced a number of plays over the years, often in concert with Meeker School District drama programs and support from other entities like the ERBM Recreation and Park District. It’s been quite some time, however, since Meeker’s adult citizens have had the opportunity to “break a leg.”
This year, the MACC board obtained funding through various mechanisms, including a Fairfield grant, to put on “Something Rotten! A Very New Musical.”
According to mtishows.com, the play is described as an “outrageous, crowd-pleasing musical farce” and “the funniest musical comedy in at least 400 years.” The play is set in Renaissance times and features brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, who are desperate to write a hit but must break out from the shadow cast by a rock star version of Shakespeare, also known as “The Bard.” Nick turns to a soothsayer, who foretells the future of theater–musicals. The brothers work together to create a hit, with several hilarious stumbles along the way, as they learn that “reaching the top means being true to thine own self, and all that jazz.”
Spearheading the effort to tell this award-winning story are two familiar Meeker faces – Shana Holliday and Janelle Borchard. Both have been performing since childhood and are heavily involved in Meeker’s theater scene, but Something Rotten! will be their first performance in several years.
For Holliday, her father’s career as a professor and theater music director at a Minnesota college was her introduction to the world of theater. “My dad was also my rock star. I followed him around like a puppy and wanted to do what he was doing. I saw him affecting people in such a positive way.”
Holliday obtained a theater degree with a music minor from the College of Saint Benedict, but after school, she didn’t do much with theater until she returned to Meeker for a second time in 2009, with husband Matt and daughters Mason and Ruby (the family also lived in Meeker from 2001 to 2006.) After working in hospitality for a time, she obtained a master’s degree in education and was a kindergarten teacher in Meeker before taking on her current job — Meeker Elementary School music and art teacher — in 2013.
When Holliday signed her daughters up for ERBM’s Center Stage Youth Theatrical Group performance of Annie, Jr. in 2010, “they got bit by the [theater] bug hard.” The family has worked together on various productions ever since. In Something Rotten! Mason (a 2021 Meeker High School alumnae) plays the role of a Puritan named Portia, and Ruby (who will be a junior this fall at Meeker High School) will play various characters. You’ve probably heard Shana and Matt sing at various venues around town, but they’ll be both singing and acting in Something Rotten! as Bea and Nick Bottom. Shana is also directing the production.
Borchard is also returning to the stage after a long hiatus. Originally from Sarasota, Florida, Borchard has been doing theater since she was a child, beginning with elementary school productions. “I have loved performing since I knew there was an audience,” she told the HT. When Borchard was in fourth grade, her mother answered a newspaper ad for open auditions for the PBS TV show “The Huggabug Club.” Out of 200 kids, Borchard was one of five selected to travel through southeast Florida and do live shows. She also acted in several commercials during that time. In high school, she primarily focused on dance, but was also very active in the theater department.
She “married Meeker,” she says, when she wed Kristofer Borchard in 2012. They lived in Grand Junction for a few years and then relocated to the Denver area, where Borchard completed her nursing degree. After starting a family (which now includes three kids–Fell, age 7, Skadi, who is 5, and Sol, age 3), they decided they didn’t want to raise their children in the city and returned to Meeker in 2016. Janelle has worked for Pioneers Medical Center as the Chronic Care Coordinator and recently took a job with Western Healthcare Alliance as the Regional Care Coordinator. Borchard will play a rock-star version of Shakespeare in Something Rotten!
Holliday approached Borchard in 2018 for help with the productions of “Mary Poppins” and “Pippin.”
“I was like, who are you? And what do you want from me?” Borchard said, laughing, but she agreed to help out. A “strong, lifelong” friendship has grown from their mutual involvement in theater.
Holliday and Borchard both tout numerous benefits of participating in the arts, which is made possible by strong support from the Meeker School District board, Meeker Education Foundation, MACC, the rec district and other community entities and members.
Those benefits include a boost in confidence, a chance to get out of your comfort zone and take risks and skill-building that helps with other areas of life.
“We had one student who was terrified to give a speech in class, and that’s gone,” Holliday said. “She’s absolutely one of our strongest people and has become someone who is not afraid to share her opinions, and it’s really grounded her.”
The theater also provides a positive, safe environment where kids can be themselves, and even bridges divides across students who had nothing in common prior to coming to the stage. This may be the most magical “side effect” of all, as Holliday and Borchard have witnessed relationships blossom that otherwise might not have been possible.
“You are portraying emotion and real life events in this room, and it brings you together on more than a surface level,” Borchard said. “Every cast becomes a family,” Holliday added.
Of course, theater isn’t just about acting. Kids (and adults) who don’t necessarily want to be on stage can help with lighting, technical design, costumes, props and more.
Holliday and Borchard are experiencing many of the same benefits they’ve seen with the drama kids. Being involved in theater “has given me my identity back in a lot of ways,” Holliday told the HT. “I’m not just ‘Mason and Ruby’s mom.’ I’m a person of my own.” It’s a sentiment most moms, including Borchard, wholeheartedly agreed with. “It’s not for my kids, it’s not for my marriage, it’s not for my job. This is for me,” Borchard said. “It’s magic, what happens in here. It fills your cup.”
The only downside Holliday and Borchard can think of is the disappointment that comes with seeing empty seats. “The kids work so hard … they’re putting everything out there on the line. So we could have better audiences. I would love to see people come support these kids in this endeavor, like they do in other things,” Holliday said, continuing, “it’s just as much work, it’s just a different kind of show. And it’s so entertaining.”
As for spearheading a production for grownups: “We’ve talked about the fact that this needs to happen and people have been approaching us for years, so we’re super pleased,” they agreed. Something Rotten! includes a cast of more than 20 community members, including a blend of oldtimers and newcomers to town, all with a wide range of skill levels and performance experience. “The theater is open to everyone,” Borchard said.
Of course, if all this isn’t enough to convince you of the benefits of community theater, the productions are always “highly entertaining.”
“People always say there’s nothing to do here .. well, here you go,” Holliday said with a laugh.
Watch Holliday, Borchard and the rest of the cast in Something Rotten! A Very New Musical at the Meeker High School auditorium, 550 School St., on Thursday, July 29 at 6:30 p.m., Friday, July 30 at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, July 31 at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $7 and you can get them at the door or order them online in advance; scan the QR code below or visit:
The Herald Times will livestream Friday’s performance for those who cannot attend in person. Scan the QR code below or visit:
By CAITLIN WALKER | firstname.lastname@example.org