TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — By now many of you may have attended Truckee High School’s Drama Club production of Godspell. If so, then you have most likely spent time talking your agnostic, non-denominational, Jewish, Muslim, Jehovah Witness, Mormon and atheist friends into going — because this is not just a story involving the gospel of Matthew — it is a story of the importance of community and having a moral compass whether you are a religious person or not.
Today I had the pleasure of meeting with four cast members, “Jesus” himself (Calvin Brady), and lead singers Karlie Mohun, Theresa O’Gorman and Chelsea Mohun. What I learned was this theatrical and musical performance is very different from the typical performances we’ve seen from the Drama Club cast. For example, every scene includes the entire cast, and in addition to the talents provided by the “usual suspects” involved in drama, we have “unusual suspects” including great athletes who have never performed on a stage that does not involve Astroturf or grass … yes that would the three football players, Leonel Angeles, Lance Bokinskie and Carl Buschman, as well as members of the volleyball team, band members and other first-time performers.
According to the four cast members, this story focuses on the important roles we all play in each other’s lives. The cast has been on a remarkable journey of working with classmates with whom they never shared a stage or even a school cafeteria table before. They have crossed those social boundaries of mixing the jocks with the drama people with the band people at a high school and the outcome is fantastic. In fact, according to Mr. Green, Truckee High’s band teacher and conductor for this program, their opening night was perhaps the best he has ever seen.
In addition to this student cast mix is the devoted community of adults who pitched in to ensure that “community” is at the core of this production, both onstage and off. For example: Director Peggy Boelk who puts in endless hours; Elizabeth Archer, artistic director of InnerRhythms and her colleague Sherri Woods-Green who choreographed the dance routines; Linda Saxton who acted as voice teacher to solists; Jan Sturdavent who worked with the choral and Jeff Engerbretson and Rich Valentine who helped with everything from sets to programs and everything in between. There is also an adult professional guest actor, Caleb Dickson, who helped all the student cast to move beyond their comfort zones to bring their best voice, theatrics and talents to the audience.
I asked a few cast members what they liked best about being in the production of Godspell.
Theresa O’Gorman said, “Just the act of rehearsing and being in the play is great. The energy is wonderful and it does not matter what happened before you got to rehearsal, it just goes away and everyone is there laughing and working together toward the same goal — which is delivering a great performance for the audience.”
Karlie Mohun agrees and notes the cast itself is a community that has learned to support each other in meaningful ways. Karlie is a senior and plans to minor in theater when she goes to Point Loma in San Diego. The Drama Club is the only opportunity for Truckee High students to be involved in theater at the high school and this has played an important role in Karlie’s life and college path choices.
Calvin Brady noted beyond being in a great production, he has really enjoyed working with new people and getting to know other cast members beyond the stereotypes of what roles they normally play within the true-life theater of being a high school student. Calvin also noted participating in the production makes him reflect on how lucky he is to live in a community where people take care of each other and make the enormous commitment of working on a production for four months for the sake of one show. This includes not just cast members but all of the aforementioned adults.
Chelsea Mohun said she enjoys the freedom of playing a part and “being” whoever you are in that character and not having any pressure from the outside world —-you just get to be the person you are playing. She also loves being part of the whole ensemble, the cast has become a community of its own, and is a microcosm of the message that Godspell brings to audience members.
A bit of trivia the cast wanted to share is that Peggy Boelk and Rich Valentine worked together on a production of Godspell back in the days when the Truckee Actors Guild was alive. Many of these theater groups have closed their doors due to lack of a place to call home. But that is another story with good news on the horizon to be covered in another article. The very good news is we have one last chance to see Godspell this coming weekend. I have tickets for Friday night and can’t wait to be spellbound by Godspell. I hope to see many of you there.
Friday and Saturday, May 18 and 19, 7 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) Adults $15 and students $10. Tickets can be purchased during lunch at Truckee High School or at Truckee’s Community Recreation Center.
— Raine Howe is executive director of Arts For the Schools.