Peer pressure, love and lots of songs
Students across the Lake Oswego School District are hard at work this month, casting, decorating sets, rehearsing and marketing their upcoming theater productions.
At Lakeridge Junior High, students will perform "A Tree With Arms," a play that speaks to the current political climate and "explores how the idea of tribalism can develop among a group of school-age friends," according to director and drama teacher Franklin Dunwoody.
"Petty jealousy, willful ignorance, peer pressure and intolerance lead these kids to extremes in the quest to 'win,'" Dunwoody says.
Meanwhile, members of Lake Oswego High School's "Performance Seminar" class are rehearsing for their production of "Almost, Maine," a play of short stories that take place in the mythical small town of Almost. And at Lakeridge High, Musical Theatre Workshop students will choose from 24 songs performed in class to showcase in "Make Your Voices Heard."
'A Tree With Arms'
Dunwoody said he chose "A Tree with Arms" because he hopes the play will speak to the current climate of division in the United States.
"A brief survey of current American news media, politics and entertainment could easily lead an outside observer to view the U.S. as a collection of 'us' and 'them,'" Dunwoody said. "It is my hope that this show will lead to conversations, growth and hopefully inclusion."
Dunwoody said the play seemed perfect for LJH because the storyline is relatable to students and yet addresses large and important themes.
"I am so extremely proud of these young actors and stage technicians," he said. "The entire cast has really stepped up during this process. All have made hard choices to make this show a priority in their lives."
The show will be presented Jan. 11-13 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets ($5) can be purchased at the door (4700 Jean Road).
All nine stories in Lake Oswego High's production of "Almost, Maine" are about love, although they are all quite different love stories.
"The show is really nine smaller snippets of stories that all connect in some way," said senior and Drama Club President Carmen Thomsen. "They all take place on the same night, and all of the characters are connected."
The result, Thomsen said, is a show that is "really sweet and romantic. It's very personal and genuine, and the characters feel like real people. It's not too over the top or theatrical. The stories are relatable, but there's an air of magic to them."
Tatum Miller, a fellow member of the cast and Drama Club member, agreed. "The stories really speak to teens," Miller said. "The characters are adults, but the stories can relate to people of all ages. Everyone can enjoy the show."
Miller, Thomsen and many other cast members said this show is unlike any they have ever done before.
"I'm excited about this show because it's so different," said Miller. "We've been working really hard, so we're excited to see it pay off."
The Performance Seminar class is designed to teach students about acting and putting on a play, according to drama teacher and director Bob McGranahan.
"I direct the show, but the students do everything else," said McGranahan. "They cast the show, design the set and costumes, create the publicity and ultimately perform the show for a live audience."
"Almost, Maine" will be performed at LOHS' Black Box Theater, a smaller, more intimate venue than the auditorium. The theater seats only about 120 people, creating a feeling of closeness between the actors and the audience.
The play opens Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. at LOHS (2501 Country Club Road). Additional performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 19-20 and a 2 p.m. matinee on Jan. 20. Tickets ($10 general admission, $5 for seniors and students) are available online at www.eticketexpress.com or at the door.
'Make Your Voices Heard'
Lakeridge High School offers a similar drama class this term that will culminate in an end-of-semester showcase called "Make Your Voices Heard." The Musical Theatre Workshop is designed to give students an overall performance perspective of musical theater, according to drama teacher Andy Ballnik.
"Throughout the semester, the students work on songs from various shows and perform them for the class," said Ballnik. "The class focuses on the performance or "acting" of the song, not necessarily the vocals. The students use 'acting' techniques to give each performance a certain believability and authenticity."
The students pick songs performed in class to present at the end-of-the-semester showcase, which also serves as their final exam. They work on small-group performances as well as large musical numbers, with a focus on performance and character.
This year, students will choose from 24 songs performed in class, including "You Will Be Found" (from "Dear Evan Hansen"), "King of New York" (from "Newsies"), "Officer Krupke" (from "West Side Story"), "Blow Gabriel Blow" (from "Any-thing Goes"), "At The Ballet" (from "A Chorus Line") and more.
Performances of "Make Your Voices Heard" are scheduled for 7 p.m. Jan 18-20 at Lakeridge High (1235 Overlook Drive). Tickets ($5) can be purchased through the LHS bookkeeper during school hours or at the door before the show.
Lake Oswego Junior High students will present "Shrek the Musical Jr." in mid-February. Watch for more on that production in The Review next month.