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The joys and fears of Hydrangea Albright

CCMS students put on their second play in the still-new junior high program

Lily Woodard approaches Eliza Wolford's desk during onstage rehearsals at Charles City Middle School. Contributed photo
Lily Woodard approaches Eliza Wolford’s desk during onstage rehearsals at Charles City Middle School. Contributed photo


Hydrangea Albright: Comedy or Tragedy?

Tuesday, March 8 and Thursday, March 10

7 p.m. showings at the middle school auditorium

Free will donation


By Kate Hayden

When life gets you down, saddles your family with a curse and knocks your treehouse down with an act beyond control –– perhaps everything happens for a reason. Or perhaps the playwrights in charge of your story can’t quite agree.

That’s the world the Charles City Middle School’s spring play presents in “Hydrangea Albright: Comedy or Tragedy?”, where two playwrights with differing philosophies are accidentally hired by the same theater company to tell the same story. It’s only the second year in the middle school’s new drama program, said director Marie Conklin.

“I’m a firm believer in kids being involved at a young age…(it) gives them that experience and opportunity,” Conklin said. “It’s been really neat to see kids that have never been onstage before shine.”

Auditions opened up way back in October, with a two-week stretch of drama rehearsals before the cast takes a holiday gap: from November to the end of January. During that time, students memorize their lines and have a chance to get involved in other school activities.

“We have to have that gap because of sports. We want students to be in the play and still be in sports,” Conklin said.

Conklin had previously re-introduced a theater program to a previous district she taught in. To her, teaching basic theater habits to middle schoolers is important to helping young actors transition into high school theater.

“There’s a lot more work I feel that needs to be done, just with teaching the simple stage etiquette, speaking out with lines,” Conklin said. “Even scene changing, being quiet when you’re doing it. There’s just a lot more that needs to be taught. They’ve never had this experience before.”

Along with assistant director Toni Smith and help from high school director Linda Brant, two Charles City High School students and one graduate are also working with the middle schoolers –– helping them assemble costumes and learn the behind-the-scenes tricks that make a production run smoothly. With guidance, middle schoolers learn how to build a production set, and have watched as local artist and school board member Robin Macomber painted two backdrops in one afternoon for the show.

From stage makeup to running lighting, middle schoolers will receive earlier training in production technicalities, which will help the high school department as incoming freshmen are already using basic theater skills.

“(We’re) just using high schoolers to help train middle schoolers. That was part of the reason the district thought it was important,” Conklin said. “Charles City is very well known for doing some fabulous high school plays….Your high school career kind of starts now, you kind of know what’s being expected of you.”

“I feel like it has really helped the middle school kids continue to do well, they know they’re going to be held accountable,” she said.

As for what kind of story Hydrangea Albright is living through?

“The audience will have to decide for themselves,” Conklin said.