BHS Drama takes show on the road

BHS Drama takes show on the roadBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

With earthquake damage leaving the Burroughs High School without its Performing Arts Center, BHS Theater has taken its show on the road. For the remainder of the school year, the school’s Drama Company has five different one-night-only shows planned in various venues throughout the community.

Next Friday, March 6, the class will perform a Readers’ Theater of “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten” at Red Rock Books. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and tickets are free, although the class appreciates donations which help keep the program running.

According to Kratz, the class carried on with business as usual when school started in hopes that the yellow-tagged PAC would reopen later in the year.

But as estimates for when the theater would be reopened were pushed continually down the road, she knew the Drama Department had to come up with a strategy.

“We were about halfway through the first semester when the reality sank in that the PAC wasn’t going to be open this year,” said Kratz. “That just changed everything and we said, ‘Well now what do we do?’”

In December the class took part in a workshop presented by Tectonic Theater Project (Kratz noted that the irony of the name was not lost on her) out of New York. Tectonic focuses on a ground-up reimagining of scripts and encourages thespians to view any and all spaces as potential stages.

Kratz first made contact with Tectonic in 2011 when Burroughs attended the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. When she called last year about possibly doing a workshop, Tectonic people told her they had been keeping tabs on Burroughs since the festival and were happy to come to Ridgecrest.

“Now without their usual performance space, the kids get to put into practice the valuable strategies they learned from the workshop,” said Kratz. “And they’re reading even more plays while still getting a theatrical education. You can’t just sit down and read it, you have to do it.”

Kratz said she’s thankful at least that the PAC wasn’t red-tagged. “She’s damaged, but we don’t have to rebuild,” she said. “And hopefully not just repairs; hopefully there will be improvements too.”

But losing the PAC as a performance space, even temporarily, has hugely impacted the program.

“People’s entire theatrical connotation is with that building,” said Kratz. “If you live here and did theater – you probably learned it in that building. The connection isn’t just practical, it’s emotional.”

While students have expressed their frustrations of being displaced, many have embraced the challenge as an opportunity to expand their skills and experiences.

“Moving around has really stretched our skill set,” said Burroughs senior Chloe Whitnack. “I miss working in the PAC, but I know I work harder and I can understand my characters faster. It’s a blessing and a curse.”

“I like that we have to get creative and figure out how to make it work,” said sophomore Monica Homstad. “And a lot more people can see what we’re bringing to the stage.”

Last week the students performed “The Exonerated” at Moe’s Music on Balsam Street. An example of verbatim theater, “Exonerated” features court transcriptions, interviews and first-hand writings regarding victims who were unjustly placed on Death Row.

While some of the readers performed in view of the audience, actors playing the accused sat silhouetted behind a white sheet until their fate was made known to the viewers.

“We don’t have our building, but we’ve learned so much more than we ever could have,” said Whitnack.

After “Kindergarten,” the Drama Company’s tour continues March 20 with a performance of “Men on Boats” at the Historic USO Building, where the students can also be found non-flex Fridays running tech for Open Mic Night.

Other performances include A. R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room” on April 3 in the Burroughs multi-use room, a two-man show to be announced on April 17 and “Wolves” on May 15 at Red Rock Books.

Kratz said she was very grateful to the local businesses who helped give her students spaces to perform. “They’ve given the kids not only a new audience, but also a goal to keep them moving,” she said.

Story First Published: 2020-02-28