I had never considered directing the Hillsboro High School spring drama as long as Terry Bebermeyer was in charge of the annual production.
Yes, I had been in charge of a few plays, nearly all comedies. But, they were at the eighth-grade level. More on that in a moment. Mostly, Mr. B is good at directing. He has had a long string of successes, and he always seems to bring out the best in the student actors.
Word came down the line, however, that the master was going to step aside, at least for this year. There didn’t seem to be an immediate clamor to take the reins. I looked around at the talent pool among the students and liked what I saw.
In addition, I thought I might have the perfect play for the group. I stopped by the principal’s office to discuss the possibility of taking a shot at directing at HHS. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
As I mentioned earlier, I do have about nine years of experience directing. When I was offered the English teaching position at Goessel, I was told the eighth-graders put on a play each year, and I would be expected to continue the tradition.
Being naïve, and basically just not thinking it through, I assumed that edict meant I was supposed to do a full-length, high-school-style, three-act drama. No one tried to talk sense into me, and so I went for it.
I believe the first production was a melodrama called “A Bad Day at Gopher’s Breath.” It was a success. Since drama was part of the curriculum, we were allowed to rehearse every day.
That was the good news. The bad news was that I had to use every student as an actor, stage hand or prop builder. At times, trying to keep everyone busy was a real chore.
A few years into my Goessel career, I believe it was the fall of 1992, I decided the time and talent was right to attempt a play I had remembered from my years as a Goessel High student back in the 1970s.
I recalled that it was based on the old tortoise and hare fable, and the costumes were really cool. So, I did some research and found the old scripts and some of the costumes, including the fiberglass tortoise shell.
Everything fell into place nicely, and with much help from a couple of mothers with excellent sewing skills, my eighth-graders presented “The Great Cross Country Race” to rave reviews.
The Goessel students and I had other successful performances in the years that followed, even pulling off a bobby-socks musical in my final year. But, I always harked back to “The Great Cross Country Race” as my favorite play.
So, when the opportunity to direct at the high school level arose, there was only one choice. It was time to bring the tortoise and the hare back to the stage.
Fortunately, fellow HHS instructor Dustin Dalke agreed to join me in this endeavor. He brought his art skills and DIY mentality to the job of co-director. He dug right in on the creation of props and costumes. He is a master of making something out of nothing when it comes to a budget-minded production.
He also had the foresight to tap into the sewing talents of Gail Kliewer, who has been an incredibly valuable asset. Gail’s only connection to the high school is her daughter Katie, who also has been a big help with the costumes.
Fortunately, I was right about the talent pool at HHS. These kids are really good at acting. Many of them are already stretched to the limits by homework, sports, work and family responsibilities. But, they have answered the call.
Yes, there have been some major challenges. Trying to put together a rehearsal schedule around all the activities at the high school has been much, much tougher than I ever imagined. There have been recent weeks where we have only managed one rehearsal.
So, the stress level has been higher than I had anticipated. Going into the final week, we are still struggling to make up for lost time. But I try to have faith that it will all come together at the last minute. We have no choice. The show is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 15 and 16 in the auditorium.
General admission tickets are available in the high school office and at the door if you are interested in seeing how things turn out.
I think it would be really fun to have a reunion of sorts of those who participated in one of the two Goessel productions.
The veteran members of this year’s HHS cast have assured me that every year things come together miraculously in the final few days. And I want to believe them.
As I look back, that miracle is the one thing that all the productions I was involved with at Goessel had in common.