Drama students present, 'Up the Down Staircase'
Sylvia Barrett (Taylor Lindeman) attempts to control her students during a scene in “Up the Down Staircase,” presented by the Lassen High School drama department. The play is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday May 2 through Saturday, May 4. Photo by Ruth Ellis
May 2, 2013 — Will a high school teacher find her calling in an urban public school or decide she is more suited to the private education sector?
The answer will unfold in the comedic presentation of "Up the Down Staircase," presented by the Lassen High School drama department. The play will be performed Thursday, May 2 through Saturday, May 4. Curtain time is 7 p.m.
The play is based on the 1965 novel written by Bel Kauffman, which was then as a movie in 1967.
Lassen High School drama teacher Tom Ready likened the play as a precursor to the movie "Dangerous Minds," and part of a whole lineage of teacher and school dramas of working in the system and making a difference.
Ready said, "I wanted this piece because in the fall we did ‘Hangman's Noose’ and it was an ensemble piece and I needed a bunch of people to get a lot of stage time. This is a script that I knew could work at a high school level. It's a different style than the mystery/comedy."
Anyone familiar with the movie, which Ready described as being darker due to the nature of the tensions in it, may be surprised to find a more comedic side to the play.
Ready said, “This one's got a speed and pace that makes it a little bit more comic.”
“Up the Down Staircase” is a star piece, rather than an ensemble of six or seven people, there is a single spine to the plot.
And that, Ready said, is Sylvia Barrett, the teacher played by student Taylor Lindeman.
She is onstage all the time and the other characters come and go.
Those characters, Ready said, "Provide her with the challenge, with, you know, ‘I can get a job at a private school teaching cozy seminars like Shakespeare and Chaucer, or I can get dirty in the urban high school where the kids have severe needs but life's harder.’ And she has that struggle … where's my heart, where's my mission? Do I have a job, or do I have a vocation or a calling?’"
The play is appropriate for all ages and one, Ready said everyone will be able to relate to. According to Ready, everyone can relate to the play. He explained everybody has been through school and there are classic characters such as the class clown, the over-achiever, future politician and even the assistant principal, described as the over-aggressive and the rule monitor.
“Up the Down Staircase” is a collaborative effort between the stagecraft class where Ready works with students on design and lights. The other section of 25 to 35 students are in Jim Ayers’ woodshop class.
“And we’ve just got this great marriage, where I’ve got this professional builder who helps me with my designs. And so we're really spending time and funds on the set and the lights because there is this massive group of kids who are learning. One out of every 16 kids in the school are in stagecraft.
Regarding the partnership, Ready said it’s been a great addition to the program.
“Because we get better sets and the kids go ‘wow those are fun,’ so that’s nice,” he said.
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