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Monroe High School show offers lesson of strength
Monroe junior Ruth Tuttle plays Mammy and freshman Daniel Sniff plays Wiley during a rehearsal for Monroe High School's upcoming performance of "Wiley and the Hairy Man." (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - An American folktale of magic and morals will grace the stage of the Monroe High School Performing Arts Center over the weekend as teens tell the tale of "Wiley and the Hairy Man."

Director Jennifer Moehn encouraged families to attend the show as a resource for children to understand they can overcome any obstacles they may encounter.

"It's funny, it's entertaining," Moehn said. "It's a good story with a couple of good lessons for kids to learn."

The nine-student show focuses on Wiley, a young man growing up in the swamps of Louisiana. His father gone, Wiley, played by freshman Daniel Sniff, is raised by his conjurer mother. Junior Ruth Tuttle stirs up potions and concocts spells with a flourish of arm movements on stage. As the show unfolds, Wiley is pushed by his mother to head into the swamp for wood to build a doghouse for his hound, played by sophomore Emily Eliasson. The Hairy Man is a scary figure who lurks in the swamp, a physical manifestation of Wiley's fear, played by senior Nick Fenn. As the story unfolds, Wiley faces fearful odds in three separate events.

Jacob's SWAG Foundation Inc. provided funds for the original book of the story, which were read aloud by cast members to elementary students. Jacob's SWAG is a nonprofit organization that works to increase suicide awareness. Volunteers work within the Monroe-based group as a way to remember a teenager named Jacob Ellefson, who took his own life in 2012. Moehn said the goal of the show aligns with the message of the group; that though there are barriers in life, you are strong enough to take them down.

"One of the messages of the show is ... that Wiley realizes he had the power to overcome things himself," Moehn said. "There are so many cool stories out there for families to go see. I was in the same show in college, and it's just one of those stories that always stuck with me. To provide it here in Monroe has been an amazing experience."

The show of magic and swamp noises is largely fueled by a chorus ensemble, in which swamp creatures act as group speakers to move the story along and add to the creepiness factor. Wiley's mother chants in a rhythmic cadence, but the two also engage in lively discussion of matching words to make for an entertaining exchange. Chorus members are freshman Lilly Eliasson, sophomore Melloan Dunlavey, sophomore Jillian Heidenreich, junior Paolo Lucas and senior Brielle Hayden.

Two shows will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. On Sunday, the play will have its final performance beginning at 1 p.m.

Tickets are $5 and are on sale all week at the high school.