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Students stroll ‘Up the Down Staircase’
Nearly 50 years later, Sequim High School actors find classroom dynamics can remain the same — at least on the stage.
Director Robin Hall brings the play “Up the Down Staircase,” a humorous take on classroom life, to the Sequim High School auditorium for four performances, including a special matinee Nov. 17.
This is Sequim High’s third time interpreting the play based on Bel Kaufman’s novel that covers the gamut of high school angst from teenage rebellion to crushes to drama.
Hall said she chose the popular high school play because it incorporates a number of unique roles for students to portray.
“All of them have backgrounds and different personalities,” she said. “They aren’t cookie-cutter characters.”
Hailey Brock, 18, plays go-getter new teacher Sylvia Bennett who finds early on challenges with students and the administration.
“Her whole goal is to make a difference, but she finds thereare a lot of silly rules that are hard to follow,” Brock said.
Bennett finds particular frustration with Joe Ferone, played by Alex Holloway, 17, a talented student who rebels against adults while considering dropping out of school.
Conflict arises between Sylvia and the administration when she allows Joe to go to the bathroom during a test. Following an episode with principal Mr. McHabe (Danny Willis, 15), both the teacher and student consider leaving.
Brock said “Up the Down Staircase” has a nice meaning throughout.
“I see a lot of that in my character,” she said. “I know how badly she wants Joe to change and she sees who he can become.”
Holloway said Joe fits the stereotype of any high school’s rebellious kid, but people do see a transformation in him at some point.
“It all feels real and doesn’t seem like the typical high school play,” Holloway said.
Hall calls “Up the Down Staircase” an actor’s play and it has been well-received for 40 years.
“There’s a lot of funny lines and a lot of dramatic moments,” she said. “The audience won’t be disappointed.”
To develop their characters, Hall asked her actors to observe other students and teachers in classes for inspiration.
Willis finds he’s been able to make Mr. McHabe have his own voice.
“I like the intensity and the choices I have to make,” Willis said. “You can do a lot of different things with your lines.”
Willis says Mr. McHabe sees a transformation, too, but more through his feelings toward Sylvia and how she approaches teaching.
“He is kind of a jerk but he realizes she’s what I want in a teacher,” he said.
This year, Hall welcomes Brock and Willis as newcomers to the Sequim stage. Willis moved to Sequim this year as did Brock, a first-time actor. She wanted to try following her older brother’s acting footsteps.
“I was focused only on school work and never considered doing this before,” she said. “I wanted to have more fun in my senior year and thought I’d give it a shot.”
Through months of rehearsals and stage prep, Hall said all of the students invested a lot of time and energy into preparing the play.
“This is a great way to support the school and students and local arts,” she said.
Other student performers include Katherine Andrews, Mikaele Baker, Anna Bouquin, Hunter Cauffman, Nick Fazio, Savanna Fowler, Victoria Hall, Olivia Hatton, Ben Heintz, Kristina Holtrop, Christie Honore, Alex Law, Sam Manders, Amy McFarland, Sasha Morgan, Nate Neale, Emily Newell, Sarah Newell, Lily Paulsen, Alexandria Seay and Caleb Simonson. Darrelynne Sutton serves as assistant director with Becky Horst as acting coach.