Washougal High School’s (WHS) drama students are taking a serious turn with their latest productions.
The school’s top performing arts groups will enact two one-act plays at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 28-29 at Washburn Performing Arts Center on the WHS campus.
The Advanced Acting class will stage “Things Fall (Meanwhile)” by Barton Bishop, and the Panther Players will present “Nothing Serious” by Rich Orloff. Tickets for each show cost $5 and will be sold at the door.
“These class plays are selected by the kids, and they always take them in all kinds of directions, which is fantastic,” said WHS drama teacher Kelly Gregersen. “This year they went toward some shorter, newer, more experimental pieces instead of picking plays that have been done over and over again.”
The 30-minute “Things Fall (Meanwhile)” is described by the WHS website as “a touching and funny look at the consequences of actions and the strength of forgiveness.”
“The kids wanted something that has more of a serious context to it, but still has places for comedy and strong emotion,” Gregersen said. “It’s a nice piece that runs the gamut of emotions. It’s surreal in places. It’s not realistic. But it touches on fundamental ideas of how we treat other people and what our actions do to other people. The students were looking for something meatier to perform, so that’s why they were attracted to this play.”
The play was written and commissioned specifically for high-school students, according to playscripts.com.
“You can tell that’s the case by the pacing and the structure,” Gregersen said. “Several of the characters are high-school age, so it works well for that dynamic. But I, as a middle-aged adult, also really like a lot of the messages that this piece delivers.”
The 90-minute “Nothing Serious” is a collection of 10 short comedies that explore relationships and the ways people see themselves and others, according to the WHS website. The Panther Players will perform eight of the comedies, some of which are only five to 10 minutes long, in rapid succession.
“They wanted to do something that shook up how they normally do things, so they picked a collection of small pieces,” Gregersen said. “The actors constantly have to play new characters. It’s a good experience for them. They have to know their roles, jump right in and make strong character choices.”
While both shows touch on difficult themes and topics, they have uplifting messages to take away about how much people need each other, according to Gregersen.
“They have their differences, but they both center on the power of relationships and how people interact with each other and the world around us,” Gregersen said. “Last fall we did ‘Peter and the Starcatcher,’ which was light and whimsical, so it’s fun to go from that to these pieces, which have some heavier themes.”
The Advanced Acting and Panther Players groups both consist of veteran acting students who have been involved in virtually all aspects of the productions, including casting, directing, acting and set design.
“Instead of having someone shepherd them through the process, they are really taking responsibility,” Gregersen said. “These pieces are becoming theirs.”