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Student-written play homage to William Stafford

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego High School students Our Story: The William Stafford Project opens today, from left: Noah VanderVeer-Harris, Brittany Bowling, Tizoc Gutierrez, Austin Ellerbruch, Hannah Rosenbloom, Hannah Boe, Lauren Olson, Isabel Skene, K.C. Colton, Corey Brown, Mackenna Gordon, Ellie Ulrich and John Hanifin.What’s unusual about “Our Story: The William Stafford Project,” is not just that a Lake Oswego High School class wrote the play together but also that it is a paperless creation.

Students wrote and edited “Our Story” on electronic devices in the same classroom with LOHS drama teacher and director Bob McGranahan looking on and discovering the versatility of Google Docs, Google’s Internet-accessible writing program.

But, the use of electronic devices is carefully monitored. During a recent rehearsal, McGranahan gently admonished his students, telling them to put away their smartphones, so they could concentrate on acting now that their play’s been written: “You are addicted to these things.”by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - In Our Story, writer Michael (senior Corey Brown), center, listens to the stories of a bars patrons and employees, played by students including senior Ellie Ulrich, left, and sophomore Mackenna Gordon.

The performance seminar class’ production — set in the present day with at least one cellphone as a prop — will open today and run through Saturday at the LOHS Black Box, a theater next to the school auditorium. McGranahan’s performance seminar class is aimed at honing students’ acting skills and usually involves an in-depth study of an existing script, such as a Greek tragedy, a Shakespearean comedy or a contemporary work.

McGranahan said in his 15 years of teaching, he’s seen many student-written scripts, but most were one acts, not full plays. Having 13 writers also is unusual.by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Tom (played by sophomore Noah VanderVeer-Harris), center, shares his war memories  while his younger self, played by junior John Hanifin looks on. Cast member Ellie Ulrich sits in the background.

“This is first one that’s collaborative,” McGranahan said. “It’s a lot harder to write with more than one person.”

LOHS teens still tapped into the literary canon for inspiration, adapting the lyrical stories in the late Oregon Poet Laureate William Stafford compilation “Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems” into scenes in a writer’s life.by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Senior Corey Brown, who plays protagonist Michael, gestures toward sophomore Mackenna Gordon, who plays a bar employee.

“We picked one or two poems that really spoke to us and kind of wrote anything that came into our heads and came up with this and then we wrote those scenes,” said Hannah Rosenbloom, a freshman.

In the play, Michael, suffering from writer’s block, asks patrons and employees in a bar to share their stories, and samples and themes of Stafford’s poems are interwoven in a series of vignettes: memories of war, family discord, young love.

“He learns from people why he loves people, why he loves writing, why he loves stories,” said senior Corey Brown, who plays Michael.by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Hannah Rosenbloom rehearses her role as Bess, who is speaking to a writer played by senior Corey Brown.

Stafford, who lived in Lake Oswego until he died in 1993, was the Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1970, a position now referred to as the U.S. Poet Laureate. There have been a host of events and activities in his honor this year to celebrate what would have been his 100th birthday, and that’s the main reason LOHS students are offering an homage to the former Lewis & Clark professor.

“Our Story” is the title of a Stafford poem, which begins: “Remind me again—together we trace our strange journey, find each other, come on laughing. Some time we’ll cross each other where life ends. We’ll both look back as far as forever, that first day.”

How to attend

When: 7 p.m. today to Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lake Oswego High School’s Black Box, a theater next to the school auditorium, 2501 Country Club Road

Cost: $8 general admission and $5 for students and seniors

For more information or to buy advance tickets, visit www.lodrama.org. Seating is limited; about 90 seats are available.

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
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