'Dram-edy' features players from variety of age groups
ILWACO - Ahh, the folly of youth and the struggle to control it. Such is the plight of Anne Gilbreth and her father in the Ilwaco High School Drama Club's presentation of "Cheaper by the Dozen," which opens this Friday in the Hilltop School auditorium at 7 p.m.
Co-directors Kelly Jacobsen and Bob Walters came to a joint decision about which play to do this year. Jacobsen said they had originally wanted to do a musical, but figured that they didn't have the necessary "choir power," so instead decided on "Cheaper by the Dozen," a true story by Frank Gilbreth and sister Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. The story tells of a time when their large family - their parents and 10 siblings - are at a crossroads in life. Jacobsen said she saw it as an opportunity to include kids from all the schools.
"I wanted to include the junior high and the Hilltop kids and the primary school, and this opens that up," she said of the cast, which features seven Hilltop School students, two from the junior high and the rest made up of high school students. She said they will also have a student from the primary school playing a puppy.
The plot revolves around the oldest sister, Anne, played by IHS junior Priscilla Powers, as she is coming of age in the 1920s, and her struggle to break free of the conformity of her household as run by her father, played by IHS junior Michael Lambert, who is a well-known efficiency manager.
"He's pretty strict, as he should be, and wants all the children to be successful," said Jacobsen.
Lambert is playing a man 40-some years his senior, a task he has taken to well, picking up mannerisms and even a hair style that befits the part. His only hurdle left - memorizing all those lines.
"I think the hardest thing is playing a 50-year-old man, whereas all the little kids are playing the part that's almost their age," Lambert said. "I think I have the lines memorized, it's just putting them all together. It's been hard."
The play is billed as a "dram-edy," with elements of both taking place.
"The little kids have those lines that are kind of funny," said Jacobsen. "If you're a dad or a mom, and watch the interaction, you get it. It becomes quite dramatic at the end."
Cast list for "Cheaper By the Dozen"Ashley Wassmer: Mother
Michael Lambert: Father
Priscilla Powers: Anne
Anna Kitzman: Ernestine (Adult)
Brach Buchanan: Frank (Adult)
Kristi Freese: Ernestine (Young)
Marshall Powell/ Bobby Byrd: Frank (Young)
Kelly Freese: Martha
Elliot Marcus, Kevin Cuffel: Bill
Grace McPhail, Tianna Nesbitt: Lillian
Mathew Lewis: Fred
David Lewis: Dan
Anja Patten: Jackie
Madeline Dickerson: Ms. Brill
Dustin Manely: Dr. Burton
Michael Veland: Joe Scales
Justin Phillips: Larry
Amanda Brophy: Mrs. Fitzgerald
Brooke Flood: Ernestine
Alicia Unruh: Mrs. Fitzgerald
Shayla Williams: Martha
Michelle Ables: Ms. BrillThe story is told through flashback, as the adult Frank and Ernestine are looking back on those times from some 10 years later. Each act of the play starts out with Brach Buchanan and Anna Kitzman, Frank and Ernestine respectively, sitting and talking together at the edge of the stage. As their remembrances become more vivid, the curtain is opened to reveal the scene.
Jacobsen said that trying to mold so many different age groups, many of whom haven't acted before, hasn't been as hard as one might think.
"The older kids have experience and are choosing to come and they have full, rich lives. It's a big commitment. But for the little kids, it's a new, fun thing. It's different, I guess," said Jacobsen.
Ashley Wassmer, who plays the children's mother, agreed with Jacobsen.
"You want to do a good job, but you have more going on than just this," she said. "I have work and other things at school."
This is Wassmer's first crack at drama. A senior at IHS, Wassmer said that despite her interest, she just always had other things going on when a play was cast in the past, including the high school volleyball team, which she gave up to do the play this year.
"I wanted to try something new," she said. "When I was younger, I was intimidated. But I figured, I'm a senior."
And she said that the role of the mother came somewhat naturally for her.
"I've always been told that I sound like a mom," she said.
"It's her reassuring voice," said Lambert.
Wassmer and Lambert owe a debt of gratitude to each other for getting involved in the play. The two long time friends egged each other on when it came time to tryout.
"I've known him for a long time and we're pretty close," said Wassmer. "I've sent him to the hospital, too ..."
Lambert has some previous drama experience, although it was back in his elementary school days.
"A couple of days before audition, it got brought up (between them) that she was going to do drama and I said I had thought about it too," he said.
And as new as this all is for some, for IHS junior Powers, it's another notch on her drama belt. Powers is an experienced actress, having performed in two other large plays. She's also a defending state champion wrestler to boot. Perhaps Lambert may want to rethink his stern approach to his on-stage daughter?
"Or else I might send you to the hospital!" she said with a laugh.
"I think we're going to have to get into this," smirked Lambert.
"You're never going to live that down," Wassmer replied.
As for co-directing the play with IHS music instructor Bob Walters, who has been the assistant director on many of the dramas from the last few years, Jacobsen said she sees the duties as split two ways.
"There's the person who deals with people, and then there's the person who does just about everything else," she said. "Bob does just about everything else."
Walters duties include supervising the construction of the set, and all the tech work including organizing sound and lights.
"I wouldn't never do it without Bob, because his whole personality and demeanor. He's so positive - it's a nice balance."
Once again, local architect Steve McPhail is building the set, which consists of the Gilbreth's living room, complete with a staircase - which is being painted by local artist Pat Fagerland. Rona Kloemken is designing the costumes, including sewing several of them herself. And perhaps the trickiest part is having it all come together in such a short time frame.
"We're on a short run, a five-week run, which is not a long time," said Jacobsen. "The hope is that this weekend everything falls together."
"Cheaper By the Dozen" will play two weekends starting: Friday Nov. 5 at 7 p.m., Saturday Nov. 6 at 7 p.m., and Sunday Nov. 7 at 2 p.m.; then again on Thursday Nov. 11 at 2 p.m., Friday Nov. 12 at 7 p.m, and Sunday Nov. 14 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults $8 for students and senior citizens, and are available at the door.