The newsgirls of “The Secret History of Nikola Tesla” are, from left, Olive Barrett, Marea Denton, Aliyah Siemion, Scarlett Sullivan and Ayla Cummins. (Beth Barrett)

The newsgirls of “The Secret History of Nikola Tesla” are, from left, Olive Barrett, Marea Denton, Aliyah Siemion, Scarlett Sullivan and Ayla Cummins. (Beth Barrett)

Five Acre School play examines life of Nikola Tesla

‘Secret History’ on Little Theater stage in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — For actor Bobby Starr, one of the highlights of the evening is when he gets to explode a meteor with his Tesla ray.

Starr, 12, stars in the title role of “The Secret History of Nikola Tesla,” the drama to unfold Thursday and Friday in the Little Theater at Peninsula College, 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd. Show times for the public are 7 p.m. with admission by donation.

For schoolchildren including home-schooled students, a matinee is set for 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Written by Seattle playwright Jennifer Dice, “Secret History” is the story of Tesla, (1856-1943), the Serbian-American who invented alternating current power and other everyday wireless things we take for granted.

The students of Five Acre School in Dungeness are staging the production, a fictionalized tale featuring Tesla’s contemporaries Thomas Edison, Mary Astor, Susan B. Anthony, George Westinghouse, Marie Curie and Andrew Carnegie.

“Radio waves, robotics, neon lights, AC power — all these were harnessed or produced as a result of Tesla’s incredible mind,” said Rosie Sharpe, Five Acre’s music and performing arts teacher.

In real life, Tesla won neither fame nor fortune. He was known for his showy lectures, but had trouble getting funding.

Dice and company opted to fix that.

“In our play,” said Sharpe, “he gets the chance to prove himself. He saves the day in a dramatic way.”

He’s the humanitarian inventor who rises above the evil industrialists.

In another turn of dramatic license, Susan B. Anthony, played by Ayla Alstrup, is president of the United States while the vice president is manners maven Emily Post, portrayed by Aliyah Lara.

“She makes sure everybody behaves,” Sharpe said.

Mary Astor, she added, is a hilarious snob played by first-time actor Katie Morris.

“She developed an accent and an affect on her own,” to fit the role like a prissy white glove.

Ayla Alstrup, left, portrays Susan B. Anthony while Aliyah Lara is Emily Post in “The Secret History of Nikola Tesla,” at Peninsula College’s Little Theater on Thursday and Friday. (Beth Barrett)

Ayla Alstrup, left, portrays Susan B. Anthony while Aliyah Lara is Emily Post in “The Secret History of Nikola Tesla,” at Peninsula College’s Little Theater on Thursday and Friday. (Beth Barrett)

Lily Tjemsland, 10, is among the school’s veteran performers. She’s appeared as a baby spider in “Tricksters in Limbo,” a siren in “The Odyssey: One Thing After Another” and a witch in “Shrek.”

This time out she plays a doctor, and like Starr, she said the acting gig isn’t as easy as it might look. Lines, timing, marimba playing: These are the challenges of a Five Acre production.

“Students perform all of the music, just out of sight on our school’s fleet of wooden marimbas,” Sharpe said, so many cast members are playing multiple roles, quick-changing their costumes and running, fast but quiet, to the instruments.

“It promises to be an entertaining evening for kids and adults alike,” Sharpe added.

On Friday night only, preceding “Secret History,” Five Acre’s kindergartners and first-graders will present a playlet titled “Tacky the Penguin.” In it, Tacky is an odd bird in the penguin world. The story is about how having an odd friend around can be a good thing.

“We have been performing plays — as a part of our curriculum and not just as an elective or after-school event — for 20 years,” Sharpe noted.

This show, like many Five Acre productions, has science, history and a lot of humor.

Sharpe said what she loves the most is when the kids immerse themselves in their roles — “and act freely.”

Lily the doctor, when asked to describe a high point in the show, based her response on previous experience.

“I like working together with everyone,” she said. “My favorite moment is probably at the end when the audience claps.”

For more information about Five Acre, visit FiveAcreSchool.org or call 360-681-7255.

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

Bobby Starr, left, wields a Tesla ray while Ike Matthiessen has the telescope in “The Secret History of Nikola Tesla.” (Beth Barrett)

Bobby Starr, left, wields a Tesla ray while Ike Matthiessen has the telescope in “The Secret History of Nikola Tesla.” (Beth Barrett)

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