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Students put on first in-person performance since early 2020 with Neil Simon comedy.

Scappoose High School's first in-person play in more than a year will open Friday, Nov. 5.

Neil Simon's "Fools" is the story of a schoolteacher who comes to a small Ukrainian village to tutor a young woman and soon learns that a 200-year-old curse on the village makes everyone stupid.

Tristan Jolissaint plays Leon Tolchinsky, the schoolteacher, while Monserratt Sandoval plays his pupil, Sophia Zubritsky.

Zubritsky's parents, Dr. Nikolai Zubritsky and Lenya Zubritsky, are played by Grant Plunkett and Tessa Perri.

Gregor Yusekevitch, a descendant of the man who cursed the town, is played by Angela Johnston.

The show is directed by Autumn Gonzales, who took on the role when drama teacher Zach Olson stepped down.

Fools: A Scappoose Theatre Production

Gonzales said Johnston and Plunkett are the standout cast members.

"When she (Johnston) came in for the auditions, she was the only one that I said 'OK, that's it, she's Gregor,'" Gonzales said. "Her characterization has been spot on."

Similarly, when Plunkett read for Dr. Zubritsky, Gonzales said that "he just knew the character."

"This is a Neil Simon play, so it's got that Borscht Belt, 'take my wife, please,' comedy, so it's really dependent on the timing," which Plunkett nailed, Gonzales said.

Gonzales, who teaches English, was involved with the drama department at a school she previously worked at, but she hadn't been involved in Scappoose's program until this year.

According to the drama department's Instagram, Olson stepped down "for the safety of him and his family from this pandemic."

Gonzales said the transition has been eased by the fact that Olson had delegated responsibilities and taught students much of what it takes to put on a play.

"Zach had his system working, his people and his parents working," Gonzales said. "The cool thing is he's trained up a lot of the kids to do this."

Kate Kilman, one of two technical/set directors, has been a huge asset to the production.

"We would not have a show without her, honestly," Gonzales said.

Whenever Gonzales had proposals for the set, Kilman "would just make it happen."

The student originally cast to play the schoolteacher dropped out of the production in late October, leaving the crew scrambling to replace him.

Jolissaint "gallantly stepped up," moving from a non-speaking ensemble role into the lead.

"Our new lead Tristan is doing really well, considering he's only had a week to prep," Gonzales said.

The cast has worked together to get Jolissaint up to speed in just about a week.

"It's really inspiring to watch the kids coming together," Gonzales added.

The program did some online performances last year, but this is its first time back on stage since early 2020.

Cast members are performing in masks. Actors projecting their voices enough has always been a challenge, but the masks have added to the difficulty.

The play typically calls for some kisses, so those lines had to be changed.

"It just would have been silly with masks on," Gonzales said.

Despite the challenges of the year — a new director, a last-minute cast change, masks and less resources for the set team — Gonzales said she's proud of the production the young actors and crew members have put together.

"I can't wait until they can hear the laughter from a lot of people" in the auditorium, she added.

"Fools" shows at Scappoose High School on Friday, Nov. 5, at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 6, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 7, at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and seniors, and free for staff and thespians.

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