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Mt. Pleasant siblings turn 'Shop' into family business

| Saturday, March 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Brother and sister Braden Kraisinger, 17, and Keegan Kraisinger, 13, and sisters Brianna Pritts, 12, and Alexandrea Pritts, 15, all of Mt. Pleasant, are cast members in the school's production of 'Little Shop of Horrors.'

When Braden Kraisinger landed the role of Skip Snip in Mt. Pleasant Area's production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” his naturally inquisitive mind went to work.

As Snip, Kraisinger smokes a cigar on stage, noted Rich Bair, director/set designer, but his “cigar” is his own homemade tobacco-less creation.

Having always been interested in all-things electrical and in general how things work, Kraisinger envisioned Snip as a smooth-talking, cigar-smoking, raspy-voiced talent agent. To make his character more realistic and believable, Kraisinger devised his own “random idea cigar to use for effect,” he said, chuckling. “I thought smoking cigars is something a person like Skip would do.”

In creating his prop, Kraisinger used a sheet of notebook paper, rolled up similar to a paper telescope kids would use in school, and taped it to prevent it from unraveling. He positioned a cork in the center of the tube to give it shape and stability and prevent it from collapsing. After he placed ordinary baking flour inside the paper, he put a cotton ball at one end so flour would not back up into his windpipe when he breathed into the tube. He covered the far end of the tube with punctured plastic wrap.

“When I blow on the end with the cotton ball, it sends a puff of air through the tube,” Kraisinger explained. “That air forces the flour out the other end to look like a puff of smoke. It works well and gives the cigar effect I was trying to create. I made a couple backup cigars just in case.”

Kraisinger and his sister, Keegan, an eighth-grader at Mt. Pleasant following her older brother to the stage, and sophomore Ally Pritts and her younger sister, Brianna, a seventh-grader, are the pairs of siblings who represent the now and future of Mt. Pleasant's musical productions.

After performing in the school's fall plays of “It's A Wonderful Life” and “The Sting,” Kraisinger, a junior studying at the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center to become an electrician, opted for his first musical this year at the urging of friends.

Watching her older brother in the fall plays and seeing the school's production of “Grease” last year, Keegan Kraisinger embarked on her first musical this year.

“After watching everybody on stage and seeing the fun they had, I wanted to get involved,” said Keegan Kraisinger, who plays soccer and track and tenor saxophone with the band. “I love singing and dancing, and I enjoy being a member of the ensemble. It's been a great experience being involved with the musical. I'm learning the music and rehearsing the dance routines. Once you get the moves down it's all pretty easy. I'm watching what the older kids are doing, and I'm learning from them.”

Ally Pritts made her scholastic musical debut as a member of the ensemble in “Grease” last year and earned her dramatic stripes in the school's fall plays. After a second round of auditions this year, she received a partial solo in the song “Downtown.”

“Ally begins the song, then the ensemble comes in,” Bair said. “We've already seen her progress after her first musical last year. She is a strong, dedicated performer.”

A member of Student Council, Westmoreland Interscholastic Reading Competition, Tri-M Honor Society, Marching Band and Jazz Band, where she plays mallet percussion, Pritts said she was “excited to be selected for the partial solo in Downtown.”

But what impresses Pritts about the musical and cast is the “motivational gathering backstage prior to the performance, when cast members speak out about their experiences with the musicals. There is such an adrenaline rush getting ready for the show.”

Like her sister, Brianna Pritts plays the mallet percussion in the school band. After watching her sister in the ensemble last year, she knew the musicals were in her future.

“I look up to my sister,” Brianna Pritts said, and “I saw the excitement of the musical last year and wanted to become involved. At first it gave me something to do with my sister, but I found I love attending the rehearsals and being involved. I've made new friends and enjoy being on stage and performing with entire cast.”

Bair, along with director/choreographer Barb Rolla, readily sees the value of the siblings' involvement and connections.

“Even though Braden and Ally are still relatively young, we see how important their experience with the fall plays and musical last year are,” he said. “They are setting an excellent example for their younger sisters.”

Les Harvath is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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