Play rehearsals under way at West Junior High

By JESSICA KRAMPE

neighborhoods@ColumbiaMissourian.com

With their heads buried in blue script books, students at West Junior High School rehearsed the second act of “The Man Who Came to Dinner” on Thursday, Oct. 14, after classes.

Sarah Gerling, who teaches theater, debate and film studies at West Junior High, directed the students, helping them to perfect facial expressions and lines filled with emotion. The rehearsal provided time for the cast to understand their characters and the history and plot of the show.

“The Man Who Came to Dinner” is set in a small town in Ohio during the 1930s at Christmastime. Sheridan Whiteside, a big-time radio personality, is invited to dinner at a family’s home and slips on a patch of ice, hurting his hip. The man becomes a guest at the home and disrupts their lives.

When choosing a show for junior high productions, it is necessary to find a balance between plays that are overly cheesy and plays that are good quality but inappropriate for the age group. “The Man Who Came to Dinner” is well known and a quality show, Gerling said.

“I think (the students) were a little hesitant at first,” she said. “They are starting to get the hang of it and do a good job of getting into their character despite the fact that they aren’t as familiar with the time period.”

Rehearsals began the last week of September and continue until opening night on Thursday, Nov. 18.

Gerling said she wants the performance to be quality and to be as professional and as top-notch as possible.

“I always want the kids not just to have a great time, but I want them to really learn the whole process of what it is like to put a show together,” she said. “I really want them to take ownership of the play. It’s their show.”

As their teacher and director, Gerling said she feels a sense of pride at the end of each show.

“I just love that moment whenever the show is about over and they come out for their curtain call,” she said. “I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. I know what a cool feeling that is, the rush of adrenaline.”

 

Will Fandek, Sara Barfknecht and Pierce Scribner, all eighth-graders, go over a scene in the second act of "The Man Who Came to Dinner."

 

Mariah Brady is a ninth-grader at West Junior High, and this is her second production at the school. She will be playing the role of Maggie Cutler.

“Everyday you get to see people grow and really start to get more into their character,” she said. “I think all of us have improved a lot since we started.”

Brady said working with Gerling is a good experience and that acting is what she wants to pursue in life. Her goal for the performance is to let go of her nerves and any stage fright.

“The best part about being on stage is how the crowd reacts to you,” she said, “and the applause at the end of the curtain call. It’s the best.”

Tateonna Thompson is also in ninth grade at West Junior High. This, too, is her second production. She will portray Lorraine Sheldon.

“I love acting,” she said. “Anything that gets me out of being me.”

What’s next?

— Set builds are scheduled for 9 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 16, and Nov. 13.

— Tech rehearsal will be at 5 p.m. on Nov. 15.

— Dress rehearsals will be at 5 p.m. on Nov. 16 and 17. Performances will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 18-20 at Smithton Middle School, 3600 W. Worley St.

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