CMHS Revives Drama Program Under New Leadership

By Lura Jackson

 

Calais Middle High School’s award-winning student drama program has returned this year after five years of being dormant. The revival of the program – which has taken place under CHS alum Kati Grass – has been met with an enthusiastic response from students, approximately 35 of which have signed up to perform a one-act play for the community this spring.

Grass, who is now the instructor of the Business Management program at St. Croix Regional Technical Center, expressed that when she came back into the school system as an employee three years ago she was heartbroken to find that the drama program had ended a few years prior. While a student in the school, Grass explained that she had participated behind the scenes in her freshman year and performed during her senior year at the behest of the coach. The club’s 2008 performance of “Check Please” won the statewide student Drama Festival. “It has been and will always be the high of my high school career,” Grass said.

After looking into why the high school no longer offered the program, Grass found that it was initially due to a lack of student interest. Restarting the club would require purchasing or constructing new stage equipment and accessories, meaning it would require financial support that the school itself couldn’t provide.

Earlier this year, Grass was thrilled to see that CMHS had been selected to receive a grant to restore the drama program. She immediately applied to become the program director as soon as she saw the listing. Once the program was opened to students from the high school and 7th and 8th grades, dozens quickly signed up.

From Grass’s perspective, drama club offers an important opportunity for students with certain interests. She said that while CMHS offers several different extracurricular activities, including sports, band, chorus and academic decathlon, there are some students that aren’t oriented towards sports or music but who are interested in participating in school programs. The drama program can fill that void through its many available positions. “The drama program isn’t just another extracurricular,” Grass explained. “It is a whole other genre of extracurricular that has many different areas for students to express themselves. They can do this through acting, set design, costume design, prop design, lighting tech, sound tech, et cetera.”

Students that participate in drama learn how to comfortably speak in public, work together as a team, solve problems, become leaders, improvise, communicate, and adhere to a production schedule, all of which helps them in and out of the classroom. “This is a program that can help students not only in high school but as they move on to college, careers and more,” Grass said, adding that the middle school students that are participating will have an easier move into high school because of it.

After having initial auditions, Grass pinned down which play the group will be performing. Since the group is starting somewhat late in the year, Grass opted to focus on a single performance rather than attempting to fit in another to compete in the state Drama Festival. Grass chose “The Internet is Distract – Oh Look a Kitten”, a contemporary comedy by Ian McWethy. “I wanted us to perform a play that kids and adults alike would enjoy, something that adults would find funny and kids would love to watch, too,” Grass explained. Rehearsals are now being held throughout the school week in preparation of a performance in mid-Spring.