April 2, 2011 in Washington Voices

At CBE ‘Our Town’ goes nontraditional

By The Spokesman-Review
J. Bart Rayniak photoBuy this photo

The cast of “Our Town,” the first play performed by Contract Based Education students, from left, front row: Alli Lopez, Ben Powell, Forrest Beitey (stool), Raylene Davis (hat) and Kelsey Kimbrough. Second row from left; Nicole Drotzmann, Samantha Jones, Cody Dewitt (bat), Dara Murphy (pointing) and Christian Brown.
(Full-size photo)

High schools often stage plays, elaborate productions with sets, music, costumes and lighting.

It is part of the high school experience if you go to a traditional high school. But one nontraditional high school in the West Valley School District staged its very first play this week.

Contract Based Education produced “Our Town” for audiences March 29 at the New Life Assembly of God Church, 10920 E. Sprague Ave.

Students at CBE usually only attend classes on Mondays and Wednesdays or Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sometimes they attend more often, depending on their needs. Teachers Caroline Lanes and Kathy George came up with the idea to stage a play.

“I just wanted to do something,” George said. “These guys are really animated characters.”

“Our Town” doesn’t use a lot of props or scenery, so George thought it would be relatively simple. She hoped her students would present the play to the school’s advisers.

One day she was walking across the school’s parking lot toward a nearby greenhouse and saw that New Life Church was staging “Scrooge.” She walked inside and asked if her kids could use the space to rehearse.

“They welcomed us with open arms,” she said.

Not only did the church let the students rehearse, but they asked if the students wanted to perform the play there. Greg Toft, fine arts director of the church, even pitched in to help.

“We’re really excited to have them,” said Steve Williams, senior pastor.

Toft agreed with Williams. He said that the church and the school had been neighbors for a while and the play offered the church to get involved with them.

“We’re trying to affect our community,” Toft said. “We have a heart for them. It’s the right thing to do.”

George and Lanes also incorporated the history of the time period portrayed in the play in their lessons. Lanes said her students were struck by the role of women in the early 20th century.

One of the stars of the play was Dara Murphy, a 17-year-old junior who played Dr. Gibbs.

“Kathy kind of talked me into it,” he said.

“He can do voices and comedy skits,” George said.

Murphy said he found the time period very interesting. He noted that in 1901 to 1914, sausage was just 5 cents a pound. He said he appreciated the play’s old-time message.

“I think it has a lot to do with life,” Murphy said.

Ten students from the school performed in the play and some played more than one role.

The cast of the play included Forrest Beitey as the stage manager; Murphy as Dr. Gibbs; Nicole Drotzmann as Joe Crowell; Christian Brown as Howie Newsome; Alli Lopez as Mrs. Gibbs; Kelsey Kimbrough as Mrs. Webb; Cody Dewitt as George Gibbs; Drotzmann as Rebecca Gibbs; Raylene Davis as Wally Webb; Samantha Jones as Emily Webb; Davis as Professor Willard; Brown as Mr. Webb; Ben Powell as Simon Stimson; Davis as Mrs. Soames; and Powell as Si Crowell.

The crew included the directors and producers, George and Lanes, Christian Williams on lights and sound effects, teacher Bonita Shill made the programs and Davis and the drama students made the poster.

Lanes and George also recruited Joanne and Jim Becker of the Lion’s Share to lend the cast its costumes.

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