After a somewhat disappointing previous performance year, the Bear Creek drama department is back with four new performance opportunities being added to the original two, totaling 40 performance dates throughout the year.
Two of the opportunities taking place this quarter are the regular fall show — Neil Simon’s comedy “Rumors” — and the new storytelling series called “The Porch.”
“Rumors” is a farce, which is a comedy that aims to entertain the audience through situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant, and thus improbable. The play features eight main roles and two other roles that are featured only in the second act. It takes place in the home of a deputy New York City mayor and his wife on the night of their tenth wedding anniversary party.
“I feel excited for this show simply because it’s great to be back,” senior Jonah Beavert, a returning thespian, said. “And a comedy like ‘Rumors’ is a great way to start the season.”
“The Porch is a storytelling opportunity,” drama teacher Richard Harlow said. “It is designed for the students, faculty, and Bear Creek community to have a place to tell and share stories. It encourages the search for voice. To bring voice to the stories that we all have and to set them on stage where we can all celebrate them. Our motto is: remarkable stories when written, remarkably entertaining when performed.”
“The Porch” had its first performance on August 22 and featured stories from seven Bear Creek students and a performance by nationally renowned storyteller Kirk Waller.
“The Porch” also has a connection with Bear Creek and The Bruin Voice. Alumnus Derek Clements, a former editor-in-chief of The Bruin Voice, conceived the idea.
“The most essential idea behind ‘The Porch’ is that at least some of the stories in every show come directly from members of the local community,” Clements said. “Every community has so many stories that can be enjoyed if people are paying attention and willing to capture them. My advice to students considering performing is to own up to the particular conflicts and embarrassments and incompleteness that make up who you are because the best stories will come out of that. Ultimately, if you do, you will capture truth, and that is enormously healing for people you share your stories with.”
Stories shared during the first performance of “The Porch” included original poems by senior Maurice Spiller senior Deziree Whitfield, and junior Saren Sommerville, an original composition by sophomore Jasmine Syrovatka, and stories of life experiences from seniors Alexa Castleman, Zach Denney and Kelsie Hughes.
The “Rumors” cast will be in rehearsals all this quarter, with performances set for the last two weeks of the first quarter on September 18-20 and 25-27, while “The Porch” will take place periodically during the year with the next performance scheduled for tonight at 7 p.m.
The other mainstage show, “Bye Bye Birdie,” will take place in the spring.
Other opportunities the drama department plans to debut include the Studio Theater series, the Student Playwriting Festival, and a children’s theater workshop. The last of the six performance opportunities is the improvisational club Comedy Sportz.
The Studio theater series will take place in November and April with a total of seven performance dates and will showcase Bear Creek alumni.
The Student Playwriting Festival will take place at the end of April and the beginning of May. Following the example of Mahalia Barrow’s senior project of writing and directing a play last year, the festival will feature original short plays written and directed by the students in Harlow’s Advanced Theater class.
The children’s theater workshop will take place in February and is part of senior Alexa Castlemen’s Capstone Project.
“I’m doing my research paper on the influence performing arts has on young students,” Castleman said. “For my project, I will be organizing, with the much needed help from my mentor, Mr. Harlow, a children’s theatre festival along with a show for the neighboring elementary schools.”
The workshop will take place on a Saturday in February and Castleman will invite students from the elementary schools, preferably between grades 3-5, that neighbor Bear Creek, such as Julia Morgan and John Muir.
“I want to work with kids around that age because at that age they’re mature enough to pay attention but still young enough that we can get them to participate,” Castleman said.
Another new feature this year will be the requirement of every student enrolled in a theater class to participate in one public performance per semester.
In addition, Castleman is hoping to make the drama club into a more active organization in the school community.
“We’re hoping to bring in more audience members, fundraise a lot more than last year, and get the drama club’s name out there in hope of bringing interested students,” Castleman said.
All in all the entire drama department is looking forward to redemption after last year’s less than stellar year.
“We’ve gone from having six or seven performance dates to 40,” Harlow said. “We are hoping to continue to provide performance venues for our Bear Creek community.”