By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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In this play starring Hailey Brock, 18, as an idealistic English teacher, there's a bright array of students, one very attractive male teacher and the girl with a crush on him. There are notes being passed around and school rules being broken. A student goes up the down staircase, for example, and is disciplined for it.
The whole “dramedy” plays out in just four performances, starting Friday at the Sequim High School Performing Arts Center, 601 N. Sequim Ave.
“The actors are phenomenal,” said sophomore Ben Heintz, one of the 24-member cast of Sequim teenagers bringing “Staircase” to life.
“The classroom scenes are all really fun; a lot of humor happens there,” added Ben, 15.
In the story based on Bel Kaufman's best-selling novel — made into a movie starring Sandy Dennis in 1967 — Sylvia Bennett (Brock) is a young, green English teacher.
In her first year, she has high hopes of nurturing her pupils in classic literature and writing.
Soon, she confronts reality: the school's bureaucracy, the indifference of her students, the incompetence of many of her colleagues.
Sylvia talks to her friend Ellen (Christie Honore) about whether she should keep at her job or leave the classroom.
Meanwhile, Paul Barringer (Heintz) has to deal with one of his students (Olivia Hatton) who has a major crush on him. Another teenager, Joe Ferone (Alex Holloway), is a smart but rebellious kid who can't decide whether to stay in school.
Populating the campus are administrators and students portrayed by Lily Paulsen, Danny Willis, Amy McFarland, Anna Bouquin, Hunter Cauffman, Emily Newell, Sasha Morgan, Alexandria Seay, Alex Law, Sarah Newell, Katherine Andrews, Mikaele Baker, Nate Neale, Sam Manders, Nick Fazio, Kristina Holtrop, Victoria Hall, Caleb Simonson and Savanna Fowler.
“The kids have worked really hard on their characters,” added director Robin Hall, who's worked since September with assistant Darrelynne Sutton and acting coach Becky Horst.
Now, Hall hopes to see school teachers and administrators in her audience beside their students.
“A lot of [them] can identify,” she said, “along with the rest of us who went to school.”
Brock, for her part, said the best thing about playing Sylvia the teacher was getting to know her “students” and gaining more understanding of the teenagers' and the teachers' perspectives.
'A strong message'
“Up the Down Staircase” has a strong message, Brock said.
“It's about the lives of the students, and the care the teacher has for them,” and how hard it is to keep things running smoothly inside an urban high school.
“It's very real,” said Brock, a senior at Sequim High.
Curtain times for “Up the Down Staircase” are 7 p.m. this Friday and next Friday and Saturday, Nov. 16-17, and at 2 p.m. this Sunday only.
Tickets, available at the door of the high school Performing Arts Center, are $8 for adults and $6 for students and seniors.
For more information, phone Hall at 360-460-7860 or Sequim High School at 360-582-3600.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.