Chaotic Kids Test Teacher in ‘Schoolhouse’
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 16:09
Not just area schools are starting class this fall. Tin Roof Theatre, for their fall production, are bringing Leanna Brodie’s “Schoolhouse” to The Stage at Island Park for the next two weekends, a production that glances at the one-room schoolhouse era of the Northern Plains.
At first, this play may sound like another walk down memory lane for the older generation, but though its premise is in the past, its plot is quite contemporary.
“It’s not the kind of nostalgic ‘Our Town’ look back to a kinder, gentler time,” guest director Charlene Hudgins said. “It deals very much with the realities that we are dealing with today in school—things like bullying, things like kids who haven’t yet found their place among other kids. It has a very, very real sort of ‘today’ feel for a play that’s actually taking a look back.”
It is those very issues that test and stretch new teacher Melita Linton (Anna Rice) to the edge in “Schoolhouse,” as her students have no intention of learning anything. Though she does manage to crack the whip, friction flies and it’s not just the children who learn something from class.
Take reform student Ewart (Matthew Englund). His arrival throws up questions from the start as to what crime he committed and what he is doing in Miss Linton’s class. This mystery gathers as the show goes on, and ultimately satisfies the audience’s and characters’ curiosity about the boy’s past.
“He’s a mystery, he’s a question mark,” Hudgins said, “and we don’t know if he’s dangerous, we don’t know what he did.”
Other students push Miss Linton’s buttons just as much as Ewart. Cast members Samuel Krauth, Reid Strand and Karla Underdahl portray the three bullies in the class. On top of that, a 7-year-old genius (Christopher Damlo) is thrown into the mix too.
As an interesting side note, this production’s cast is remarkable in the fact that the parts of the children are all played by adults mostly in their mid-20s.
“I chose to cast it this way for several reasons,” Hudgins said. “One, I thought it would be artistically interesting, and the playwright in the script says creative casting is encouraged. But also because I think the students are very complex and I wanted people who could achieve those complexities with the students.”
With this creative casting touch for a show that is very ripe for this time of year, “Schoolhouse” will have something for everyone as we all head back to class, students and teachers alike.
“I think this is a play for everyone but I think that teachers who come to see it will be especially proud,” Hudgins said, “because there’s a certain ability to the compassion and the passion that this particular teacher has.”
“Schoolhouse” is presented at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6-7 and 12-14 and at 2 p.m. Sept. 8 and 15 by Tin Roof Theatre at the Stage at Island Park at 333 Fourth St. S. Tickets are $16 for adults, $12 for students and seniors and $6 for children. Tickets are also available online at The Stage website as well as at the box office 90 minutes prior to performances.