March 24, 2019
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Entertainment news

By: Janet and Lanny Lowery
March 15, 2019

Local school drama productions seem to pop up in the spring.  Exciting theatrical news arrived before the spring break from Lawrence Jones Middle School and Technology High School.  Veteran drama teacher Jill Zschach announces not one but two plays for this spring.  Meanwhile, Technology High’s drama teacher, Emily Walters, launches a new program for her school.  Both teachers respond positively to the surge of student interest in the performing arts.

Zschach directs two full-length plays at the same time just when we think no one could work harder than she did in leading students to the very successful performance of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.” this past fall.  Zschach explains, “We are doing two plays because I had so many students who want to participate that I didn’t have enough parts.  Now, we have over 30 kids with lines, as well as additional students working backstage.”  Always enthusiastic and excited to have students participate, Zschach never turns students away but always finds a role for everyone.

One of the plays to be performed, “The Princess Who Had No Name,” recalls the story of a princess who wakes up with amnesia.  She meets a collection of fairy tale characters while figuring out who she is and finding her way home.  This comedy will be performed Fri., Apr. 5 at 6:30 p.m. and Sat., Apr. 6th at 1 p.m.  The other play, titled “Chasing Charming,” focuses on a narrator who needs to tell a fairy tale.  Her story brings to life several well-known princesses who need to rescue Prince Charming from an evil witch.  This comedy will be performed Sat., Apr.6 at 6:30 p.m. and Fri., April 12 at 6:30 p.m.  Look for more about each play and the players on this page soon.

Emily Walters, the new English and drama teacher at Technology High, while planning and directing a production for this April, looks to grow her program even more next year when THS moves to the Waldo Rohnert campus.  Walters offered this thought: “What will be great about next year is we will have a stage of our own for rehearsals and performance and more resources to build our program.  While building a new program has its challenges, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the students and listen to their ideas and input from the beginning.”  And part of that beginning will be this spring’s production.

This year THS’s production will be a showcase titled by the students “Maniacal Musical Mysteries: Crime and Corruption.” Walters reports, “Act 1 will feature a short Sherlock Holmes play titled “The Last of Sherlock” and Act 2 will present a variety of songs from musicals that deal with themes of crime and corruption.  Our musical line-up includes songs by Disney villains and songs from popular Broadway musicals such as ‘Chicago’ and ‘Sweeney Todd.’”  While the event takes place at Lawrence Jones Middle School at 7 p.m. Fri., Apr. 26, more news about the show will appear in our Apr. 19th edition.

At another school, Santa Rosa Junior college, opening night of “All the Great Books (abridged)” fulfilled all of its promise for fun as it crossed the imaginary line to involve the audience in all of its frivolity from beginning to end.  The Coach, played by Alexx Flores, a stereotypical physical education teacher, loud and obnoxious from the outset, growled at the students (audience) as a drill sergeant would command his trainees.  “Alright everybody-listen up!  You know why you’re here.  This is an extremely accelerated remedial high school literature course.”  From that moment to the end of the play, ninety minutes of humorous slapstick and mockery filled with puns and misunderstandings delighted the lively audience.  

This electrically charged atmosphere never becomes static, as the Coach, the Professor (Christopher Shayota) and the Student Teacher (Jasmine Flores-Nunez) along with nine other actors playing custodians, student athletes, and drama students move lively from one comedic stick to another.  And the thirteenth actor (the audience) never knows when it must duck from balls and flying papers and other objects.  No let up at intermission as the audience participates in a midterm exam responding to the essay question: “What are the two greatest books ever written and why?”  And those who survive the second half of the play may receive a diploma ribboned “Reducio Ad Absurdum.”  Four more shows at the SRJC’s Newman Auditorium this weekend: Mar. 15 and 16 at 8 p.m. and Mar. 16 and 17 at 2 p.m.  Call for tickets at 707-527-4307 or go online:  www.theatrearts.santarosa.edu.

Faith Ako returns to the Redwood Café Thurs., Mar. 21 from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.  The Voice featured Faith Ako last Nov. as this multi-genre singer and her group perform many styles of song.  A Rohnert Park resident and an educational specialist at Rancho Cotate High School, Ako thrills her audiences with her luscious and sultry tones as she “loves performing traditional/contemporary Hawaiian songs, soft rock and a couple of blues jazz tunes.  We never miss a chance to see her shows and will join her in a packed house at the Redwood Café.