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Back to the boards: Heroes, villains and melodrama at Othello High School play

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | November 10, 2021 1:00 AM

OTHELLO — The curtain goes up Thursday on a tale of deception, shocking twists, true love, nefarious deeds and the thwarting thereof presented by the Othello High School Drama Club.

“Shakespeare Goes to Gravel Gulch or… The Villain Drove a Bard Bargain” will be presented at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at the McFarland Middle School auditorium, 790 S. 10th Avenue.

It’s the first time in more than a year the drama club has performed live, or performed at all. Extracurricular activities were one of the casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic, which shuttered schools across the state and forced them to drastically revise their schedules.

Drama club advisor and director Tom Christensen said an old-fashioned melodrama seemed like just the ticket after a year off.

“After not being able to do a show last year, I wanted to do something that wasn’t going to be a lot of serious work,” Christensen said.

The play tells the story of a traveling acting troupe, with lead actress Sunny Day (Madison Giles in the OHS production) committed to bringing culture to the Territory of Arizona. But in a shocking twist, every town where the troupe appears seems to have a rash of robberies.

Texas Ranger Johnny Lasso (Dallin Freeman) is hot on the trail of the mysterious thief known only as Gentleman Dan. Could it be the thief has some connection with Noble Heart (Adrian Mendoza), the leader of the theater troupe?

Or maybe there’s yet another shocking twist.

Christensen said he’s glad to be back to live performance.

“In some ways it was kind of nice to have a year off,” he said. “But mostly it was a challenge,”

A lot of kids in the drama club depend on it as a creative outlet and as a social circle, he said.

“It’s really a pretty tight-knit group, and I think they missed each other,” Christensen said.

Getting back in the swing of production was a little bit of a challenge for the director.

“There’s been a little bit of a learning curve, a memory curve,” he said. “Things that had become habit have not been at the top of my mind.”

The play has a cast of 24 between the townspeople – some with secrets to hide – the acting troupe and the bickering bad guys, and six people in the backstage crew. Christensen said it was a good, but not surprising turnout, since the drama club put on some large and challenging productions before the pandemic interrupted life.

The drama club’s last play, in 2019, was “Seussical,” the musical based on the works of legendary children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss.

“It had a really large cast, and the kids had a lot of fun. We got a lot of repeaters from that experience,” he said.

The drama club has been doing rehearsals in masks, but they will be allowed to perform without them, Christensen said.

Other actors in the production include Amberley Aguilar, Ellie Ashton, Jeweliana Pruneda, Lilly Washburn, Edith Vizcarra, Fatima Camarillo, Nyomi Valdez, Maria Camarillo, Monserat Camarillo, Sophia Terayama, Ashandra Sandoval, Genesis Castro, Javier Rodriguez, Damien Dawson, Dorota Paskova, Kassandra Fletcher, Fatima Martinez, Magali Marroquin, Yajaira Gaspar, Damian Gomez and Melany Leal.

Tickets are available at the door and are $8 for adults, $7 for senior citizens and Huskies membership card holders, $5 for children and students and $4 for Othello School District students with an ASB card.

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Bickering outlaws (from left) Swindler (Fatima Martinez), Terrible Tilly (Kassandra Fletcher) and the Pecos Pest (Edith Vizcarra) fight it out.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

The villainous Noble Heart (Adrian Mendoza, left) prepares an attack on hero Johnny Lasso (Dallin Freeman) in the Othello High School Drama Club production of “Shakespeare Goes to Gravel Gulch.”