In high school, most students learn about great literature by reading it in English class. But at Riverbank High, lucky pupils in Mrs. Stacy Bauer’s Drama classes got to act out an award-winning story on stage.
This semester, the play is Thornton Wilder’s ‘Our Town.’
It’s the story of a fictional American small town called Grover’s Corners, spanning between 1901 and 1913, told through the lives of its everyday citizens. It was first performed in 1938. Success on Broadway garnered it the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
RHS staged the play in its Black Box Theatre on campus, Thursday through Saturday this past week, with weeks of preparation before that.
Bauer directed the play, with teacher Albert Scholes and his Stage Craft Class designing and building the set. The cast and crew were made up of students. Sixteen students played the 18 characters.
The play centers around two families, especially children George Gibbs and Emily Webb. During the span of the three acts of the play, the next-door neighbors grow up together, get married and start a family.
George is played by Noah Glynn and Emily, by Tawnie Denys. And the Stage Manager, played by Eli Vernon, speaks directly to the audience, guiding them through the action in time, if not space, describing the layout of the town.
The no frills setting consisted of a bare stage with few props used and much of the background action pantomimed.
Set changes happened while the audience looked on. Most often, the Stage Manager explained what had just happened and what was coming next during this time.
One scene depicted George and Emily looking across their yards from their respective bedroom windows while a huge moon was projected in the background. This was accomplished by the students acting from atop a pair of ladders. The context for the final act was effective, while spare, established merely by the position and demeanor of the actors and some special lighting.
Other standout performers included Valleri Gobel, who played Mrs. Webb, Emily’s mother, and Carolina Duarte as Mrs. Gibbs, George’s mother. Rolando Carrillo played Dr. Gibbs while Ruben Paradez played Mr. Webb, who is editor-publisher of the Grover’s Corners Sentinel. One of few props used during the play, the newspaper he carried was actually a copy of The Riverbank News.
An addition to the Black Box this year included brand new seating, much more comfortable than the metal folding chairs of the past.
The padded seats were purchased through a combination of funds from the community. The Riverbank Federated Women’s Club provided $1,000 towards the purchase, while RHS Principal Sean Richey contributed another thousand. The remainder came from the Drama classes. Members of the Women’s Club were in attendance for Friday night’s performance.
Both Thursday and Friday’s shows were packed, with overflow seating needed on Friday.
Next on the docket for RHS Drama is a December production of ‘What We Want To Say But Never Will.’ In February, they’ll stage ‘Almost, Maine.’
In March the department will present ‘Cinderella.’