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North holding Celtic celebration
Team puts on Irish production
Celtic WEB 1
Kristine Pakkala, right, rehearses a scene with Anna Cathryn Finch, left, and Ariel Bettes for “Celtic Celebration” at North Forsyth High. - photo by Autumn Vetter
Ariel Bettes couldn’t think of ways she’d celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in years past.But on a recent afternoon, the North Forsyth High student did a jig like a traditional Irish dancer across the stage in rehearsal for the upcoming “Celtic Celebration” variety show.The performance, which runs Thursday through Sunday, includes drama, music and dance from Ireland, Scotland and other Celtic traditions, said teacher Mary Hayes Ernst.The upcoming Irish holiday isn’t largely celebrated in this part of the U.S., Ernst said, but she’s been amazed at the number of people who have called her with excitement about the production.Ernst said for many of her students, putting together the show has been an introduction to a new culture.“What’s been really pleasing is the willingness of all these kids to try something new,” Ernst said. “It’s been really fun to watch them experience this and get a taste of something totally different.”Aside from singing and dancing, the students will perform the musical “Brigadoon,” set in the Scottish Highlands.Learning the accents and wearing the traditional plaid outfits were favorite parts for many of the show’s actors, Ernst said.Bettes, who plays the lead female role, said she loved the true heritage and “clan unification” signified by her banana-yellow skirt and plaid sash.Her co-star, Nick Kulway, plays an American who stumbles upon the town and falls in love with Bettis’ character, Fiona.Though he didn’t get to take on the Scottish accent, Kulway said he watched the film several times to get into character.In preparing, Kulway said he “gained a wealth of knowledge of Celtic and Scottish heritage.”Ernst said she was thrilled with the number of students who were interested in learning Scottish and Irish dancing when she put out the casting call.The show has a cast of more than 70, which includes 52 dancers.She developed an interest for Irish dance about a decade ago and became certified to teach it after many trips to Dublin.“The kids here have been fascinated by that, but we haven’t had an opportunity to use any of it really,” Ernst said. “So we came up with this idea for a Celtic celebration around St. Patrick’s Day.”Some of her competitive dancers from outside classes will also take part in the show, including a champion dancer who will travel to Ireland with Ernst in May for a competition.One hour prior to each performance, the celebration starts in the lobby, where vendors in the decorated village square will sell crafts and food “in the Celtic spirit,” Ernst said.On the show’s final day March 18, the celebration will include a “best kilt” contest during intermission.The show’s stage manager, Jake Greene, said he’s had fun learning about the culture, and he hopes the audience will too.“I think people are going to enjoy that we’re trying to take a different spin on a traditional variety show atmosphere,” Greene said.