February 2, 2012 | Vol. 39, No. 5

Rookie director leads students on the stage

The actors of Petersburg High School took to the stage, over the weekend, performing the play ‘Straight from the Horse’s Mouth.’

Orin Pierson
Petersburg High School students performed the play Straight from the Horse’s Mouth last weekend in Wright Auditorium. Above, Brittany Fonseca, Brina Compton and Haley Kelley consider what to do with their unintentionally purchased stable boy played by Bret Martinsen.

It was performed Thursday through Saturday, with big crowds turning out for the weekend shows.

Tiffany Christensen, who works at Stedman Elementary School, took up the reins as director for the very first time.

Christensen has a degree in theater and has been involved in occasional summer productions since graduation in 2001, but had never directed a high school production until now.

“This year the opportunity came up and I jumped on it,” she said.

Recent PHS student plays have been musicals, but Christensen selected what she considered a more typical play for her directorial debut.

“I kind of wanted to ease into it. Musicals can be quite demanding, especially when you don’t have a big school,” said Christensen. “We don’t have 30 or 40 kids auditioning for a play. You’re scrambling to find twelve.”

The play she chose was a great fit.

“From my experience the typical high school play is a silly farce with lots of crazy characters,” said Christensen, and there definitely were some memorable and zany performances from the student actors.

Putting on a large play can be quite a challenge at PHS because so many Petersburg students are involved in extra-curricular activities.

“I probably only had all the kids at maybe three rehearsals, there’d be wrestling or band…they’re so involved in everything,” said Christensen.

Many folks helped make the show possible.

“It was nice having the support of Carissa Cotta and Nick Popp…I wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without them,” said Christensen.

Carissa Cotta is the high school drama teacher.

Nick Popp runs the construction class and his students, particularly Cody Seaman, built the set.

The massive backgrounds had to be mobile as the Wright Auditorium is the main stage for performances of every kind in the community and is shared by many people.

The participating students met around two hours a night Monday through Thursday for two months leading up to the show, according to Kyla Compton who worked as the student director and stage manager for the production.

This was Compton’s second year as student director.

“I got involved last year…I really enjoy doing it. I feel like I know what I’m doing,” she said.

“It was a lot of work. The highlight was probably performing in front of the audience and everything going smoothly,” said Compton.

Saturday was senior appreciation night after the show and the drama program is taking quite a hit from graduation this year, as actors Haley Kelley, Joe Zarlengo, and Maria Lopez, as well as Compton and Cody Seaman who took care of the backstage workings all graduate this June.

It was clear that the play was very rewarding for everyone involved.

“The kids had big smiles on their faces backstage,” said Christensen.

“Even though it was a challenge at times, toward the end, they just came into their characters beautifully and started to have a great time with it. There were a couple in particular who were just amazing, you almost couldn’t imagine anybody else doing that character,” Christensen continued.

The students get to relax now that show time has come and gone. There is talk of the drama class putting together a show for the elementary students later in the year.

Tiffany Christensen has left town this week to deliver her second child. The play was actually performed earlier than usual this year to account for Christensen’s expected due date.

“I was really pleased with the school support for moving the date up,” she said.

Asked if directing school plays is something she would want to continue doing she said, “I’d love to! I think it was a great first year…if they’ll have me I would absolutely love to direct again next year.”

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