HAMMOND | Bishop Noll Institute’s musical “Once Upon a Mattress” stars two leading ladies with a lot in common. Nora Wragg plays Winnifred the Wobegone, the nemesis to the character of Queen Aggravain, played by her sister Gwyn Wragg.
Nora is a senior, preparing for her final performance on the BNI stage, while Gwyn is a freshman, preparing for her first. Sharing a stage is nothing new to these Lansing, IL, sisters who have Irish danced together since 2007. They have even traveled to world championship competitions in Canada and Scotland.
“We competed a lot, but some of the most fun times dancing with her was when we just danced for fun with family and friends,” Nora said.
Nora has treasured working on “Once Upon a Mattress” with her younger sister and is glad Gwyn decided to audition.
“I really wanted her to try out knowing she had a strong voice. I'm really proud of her for stepping out and auditioning and putting so much effort into her character. I hope she loves theatre and continues to do shows at BNI,” Nora said. “Theatre is so connected and helps promote individuality and meeting different types of people. Theatre allows us to just let loose, and I want her to be able to experience that, especially because of how helpful those opportunities were for me,” Nora said.
Gwyn said her sister’s enthusiasm for the Bishop Noll Drama Department made her want to try out.
“When I was at the audition I was so nervous, but luckily she was there helping me the whole time,” Gwyn said.
Nora describes her character as goofy.
“Imagine a combination of Fiona from Shrek and Anna from Frozen. She doesn't care at all what people think of her, and everything to her is just the best thing ever. She's hilarious and loud, but she can be really sweet, as awkward as it might make the situation.”
She looks forward to playing a character with a lot of flexibility.
“I can literally do anything weird and it'll fit the role. My voice can crack and I can fall over or just act ridiculous and it'll only add to her attitude and character. That's not to say I don't need to practice and still concentrate, but I'm looking forward to just being able to be crazy.”
In contrast, Queen Aggravain’s character is controlling, manipulative and “also really annoying,” Gwyn said.
“I am excited because I get the opportunity to play a character I wouldn’t normally imagine myself playing. I am also excited to see how much I can annoy the rest of the cast with the character.”
Although the current COVID-19 pandemic has put the musical performances on hold for now, the cast and crew are hopeful they will have the opportunity to present the show this summer. The whole show was blocked and choreographed prior to the school moving to e-learning, Nora said.
“It's crazy hard to practice something with the intention of performing it live and not being able to actually rehearse for a long period of time,” she said. “I think the challenge during this chunk of missing time will be to keep practicing and remembering everything, basically keeping it fresh.”
In addition, the students recorded all the dance numbers to practice at home, and are planning Zoom app rehearsals to brush up on lines and music.
Gwyn agrees there have been challenges, adding the sisters have been working together on their roles at home.
“It is really tough because it’s hard to put together a good show without everyone being present to work on it together. Because of this, we have to put in a lot of work at home, such as practicing the songs and dances.”
The sisters have plenty to look forward to next year.
Gwyn will begin her sophomore year at Noll where she plans to continue to take part in Drama Club.
“I am mostly looking forward to making new memories throughout the next few years here at Bishop Noll,” she said.
Nora is planning to study musical theater in college.
“I hope to maybe be able to teach theatre, dance, or music someday, or even do directing or crew work—anything, as long as it has to do with performing arts, I'll love it,” she said.
In addition to Drama Club, Bishop Noll offers dozens of clubs, academic teams, and varsity sports. For more information on attending Bishop Noll, visit bishopnoll.org.
Bishop Noll Musical Sisters: Bishop Noll Institute senior Nora Wragg, left, will star opposite her sister freshman Gwyn Wragg in “Once Upon a Mattress.”