Arts & Culture

These plays are their thing

River Ridge drama instructor Leslie Van Leishout gives Carlee Collins some post-rehearsal feedback from her "StudentWorks 18" dance routine during a rehearsal last week.
River Ridge drama instructor Leslie Van Leishout gives Carlee Collins some post-rehearsal feedback from her "StudentWorks 18" dance routine during a rehearsal last week. The Olympian

LACEY - From paperwork and posters to publicity and props, South Sound teens are getting a taste of the professional theater business with "StudentWorks 18," opening Thursday at River Ridge High School.

About 60 students are involved in the production, which will feature eight original plays and four dances during its six-night run.

“What’s incredible about this is that they’re all student-choreographed, written and directed,” said sophomore Emma Harris, 16, one of the show’s co-producers.

“It’s completely student-run,” added senior Bethany Boice, 18, the other co-producer.

StudentWorks has been an annual tradition at River Ridge since 1993. Students take the lead in all aspects of the show, including costumes, makeup, backstage crew, directing, producing and lighting.

“It’s good job experience for later on,” Harris said.

River Ridge drama teacher Leslie Van Leishout describes her role in the production as “kibitzer.”

“It’s my job to give them ideas, to support them and to say ‘no’ when they can’t do something,” she said.

This year’s ensemble includes horror, a few love stories and a couple of comedies.

Some of the plays were written as extra-credit projects for English classes during the fall and provide the audience some type of lesson, Boice said. Others were written just for fun by students who are interested in becoming playwrights someday.

“A lot of the messages are, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and ‘think before you act,’” Boice said.

The students have worked on the production for about three hours a day, five times a week, since the first week in January. Some of them are in advanced drama classes; others have hardly any stage experience.

“I haven’t been in a play since third grade,” said Dusti Palmer, 16, a sophomore, who will perform in six of the plays. “I really like the experience of being able to go out there and express myself.”

Van Leishout said the production will give audience members a glimpse of some of the difficult issues that today’s youths are dealing with, such as gender identity, social pressure and dating.

She believes the audience will be impressed by the show’s quality.

“You come away with a lot of hope about the future when you see all of those kids working so hard to make something happen,” Van Leishout said.

Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 lpemberton@theolympian.com

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