When I was asked to write this theatre column I worried that I would struggle to find things to write about. I have since come to realize that theatre is happening everywhere, you just have to know where to look. Case in point, the Clearlake Highschool (CLHS) Drama Club.
The Drama Club was started years ago by Patricia Marigo, Diana Lunas, Kristy Wiess and Jill Ruzicka, but had slowed after years of putting on shows. Rachael Frediani, the current Drama Club Advisor (also the Attendance Secretary, Bookkeeper, and Health Aid for CLHS), was approached by Mr. Larrea, her retired high school drama teacher when she decided to move back to Lakeport from Burlingame. Larrea, wanted her and several other people to help him get the Drama Club back up and running. Frediani was excited to get back into theatre after having been away from it for 15 years.
Then, unexpectedly, Larrea passed away. “It was devastating and shocking. Everyone said to wait a year after his passing that it would be too big of an undertaking for me. I had just moved home, started a new job and didn’t know any of the kids, but I had to do it. For him and for the students he had started to recruit and I am so glad I did. I was BEYOND lucky that everyone he had asked to help supported me in every way possible.”
Frediani had directed before in college but nothing to the scale she now found herself committed to. She had never produced nor had she been the Music Director of a show before. She says, “I can sing and I have always had good pitch but my ability to read music is remedial at best. Diana, Kristy and Jill supported me the entire way and continue to support us to this day. We could not have pulled off that first show without them!”
The Drama Club has been going strong for the last 3 years and continues to grow each year they perform. This year they will be presenting Newsies, a show about the 1899 newsboy strike of New York City. Says Frediani, “In my opinion, this is the beginning of the United States that we now live in. This is the Industrial Revolution, the beginning of child labor laws and unions. This is the foundation upon which the middle class was built. As much fun as the kids are having performing together, I’d like to think they are learning just as much.”
Each show that the Drama Club puts out continues to be a collaboration in every way possible and is literally a community undertaking. Staff from the Lakeport Unified School District, the Drama Club founders, members of the community, parents of the students, Frediani’s own parents, retired teachers, parents of Drama Club members who have graduated, and former students all jump in to help.
The computer teacher, Mr. Adam Evans, does all of the posters, tickets and programs. Sets are occasionally built by parents, members of the community and the Wood Shop Class at CLHS. This year the sets and props will be built by Michael Lunas, Diana Lunas (who is also the Producer), Nicole Elsa, Frediani, members of the cast and students Osualdo Rosales Viveros and Shelby Butcher who are volunteering as part of their Senior Project, and Parisee Cemendtaur.
The current students have a hand in every aspect of the show. Cast members Quinn Wynacht and Angie Swehla will be choreographing their numbers in the show. Their mentor, Mrs. Antionette Goetz of the Lakeport Dance Center, a frequent supporter of the theatre program at CLHS, will also be choreographing one of the numbers. Says Frediani, “Watching Quinn really get into choreographing has been a pleasure. He has a real talent for it and he’s impressed the rest of the cast.”
The students also run the lights, sound, mics, and are part of the stage management team under Frediani using skills they learn in their Rec Tec class. The Rec Tec class specializes in lights, sound recording and other aspects of the recording technology field. Students work closely with Jenni Ingram, the Band and Rec Tec teacher; Dan Camacho, the Head of Maintenance, football commentator, and former golf coach; and other members of the community that are willing to oversee them.
Special mention must be given to Justin Hiattwho is in the welding program at Kelseyville High School. Frediani asked him if he could make some lettering spelling out THE WORLD (Pulitzer’s newspaper) and what started out as lettering turned into his building the entire 13 ft tall, 8 ft wide gate that opens and closes and spins. “This amazing young man built it 3 weeks, ahead of schedule, and under budget!” Since then he’s even helped build a faux fire escape. Boasts Frediani, “This kid is amazing. He needs to be put in charge of federal infrastructure.”
The club raises money through sponsorships from members and businesses in the community to fund their shows. This year they are also partnering with CLHS Baseball to sell water and snacks at their games and they have plans to be at more events in the community to help raise additional funds.
The cast is comprised predominantly of high school, junior high, and middle school students, as well as a few elementary and home schooled students. Says Frediani of the cast,“Their harmonies are effortless. They impress me everyday. In fact some of our teachers and administrators will randomly show up to rehearsal before a meeting just to listen.”
She continues, “Luke McQuaid is our lead this year and he truly carries this show! Marlene Quilala is the heart of the company and is willing to take on any challenge we face as a cast. She is also my pianist when we need to break down a harmony. Matthew Martin is the driving force behind the cast. He pumps them up! Gets them all going…I couldn’t do this without any of them. We are also blessed to have a wonderful performer, Angie Swehla, from our rival Kelseyville High School as one of the stars of our show.” Frediani says that eventually, they’d like to do a combined show with one of the other high schools “Just to bring positivity and a sense of community to our club.”
Even the staff get into the act. This year a few school employees, including Frediani, will be nuns in the opening number. “We’re on for like 30 seconds but it’s just a fun time for everyone. And we are lucky enough to have a graduate of our school and Drama Club member, Dylan Bennet, to guest star as the villain Synder the Spider.” (Bennet recently appeared with the Lake County Theatre Company in Chicago.)
Rehearsals for the leads began in November, two days a week. The chorus was added in December. And, in January they added a third day bringing their schedule to Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday (excluding Super Bowl Sunday due to the fact that Frediani is a HUGE 49er fan). They’ve since added a second rehearsal on Sundays and are now in what they call “break a leg” where they will rehearse everyday until opening night. “These kids are busy with sports, school work, jobs etc. and to be as inclusive as we can, we rehearse as much as possible on the home stretch. These young people are serious about these performances and work hard to bring a wonderful show to our audiences.”
The cast is just as diverse as the crew and production team. This show will start at 7:30 instead of their customary 7:00 to make certain the softball and baseball players that are in the cast have time to get ready after games. “They have created a mismatch family of jocks, theatre kids, band kids, introverts, alternative kids and techies. I love everything about them and I am blessed that they let me be a part of their journey.”
Newsies is roughly 2 hrs with a 15-20 minute intermission. The CLHS Latino Club is in charge of concessions as well as a taco dinner before the Saturday 21st and Friday 27th shows. They may do a brunch type meal before the 2 matinees. These meals will be served 2 hours before the show at the CLHS Kitchen that was completed last year. All proceeds go to the Latino Club scholarships. These scholarships are available to ALL Clear Lake High School students.
If you would like to see the Newsies, tickets can be purchased in the CLHS office or at the window of the MAC (the Marge Aliksay Center) which is right next to Clear Lake High School at 350 Lange Street, Lakeport, CA 95453. Performances are March 21, 22, 27, 28, and 29. Friday and Saturday performances start at 7:30 pm and Sundays are at 1:00 pm. Tickets are $5 for students, kids and seniors and $10 for adults for seating in the stands. For floor seating the price is $20. The tables and front rows are reserved for sponsors.
ALICE IN PANTOLAND
Final weekend! Performances are Friday, March 6th at 7 pm and Saturday, March 7th & Sunday, March 8th at 2pm at the Upper Lake Middle School Theater at 725 Old Lucerne Rd, Upper Lake, CA 95485. Tickets are $18 for adults and $12 for students and seniors.
For more information or to get tickets call (707) 278-9628 or visit LCTC.us