Sibling centric drama at CHS

INDEPENDENCE -- When Central High School premiers its fall drama production Wednesday (today), don't expect a run-of-the-mill high school play.In a departure from the usually light material, the school's first production of 2013-14 is the tragic/dark comedy "Crimes of the Heart."Focusing on the three MaGrath sisters, Meg, Babe and Lenny, "Crimes of the Heart" is an intense, albeit funny, portrayal of dysfunctional family dynamics.Central drama teacher Jeff Witt chose the play because of the unique challenges it presents to the student cast."The entire play is about people looking for happiness and someone," Witt said. "It's the first time for a lot of them (students) to have such a large role. It's a total different feel and a much bigger line load."The six-character, one-set play is not only a more adult show than what Witt has brought to the stage in years past, but it will also be the first time the audience will join the actors on stage at Central's auditorium during the four-night run.It's not quite theater-in-the-round -- Witt couldn't completely surround the cast with the audience because of space issues -- but it will be a much more intimate affair for both sides."It's close to being 'in-the-round' ... we'll call it thrust (where the stage extends into the audience on three sides)," Witt said. "The nature of this play is more intimate. It kind of called to me to be closer and feel a little more real."Aside from the proximity, "Crimes of the Heart" will surely feel more realistic because of the subject matter itself.After Babe, the youngest of the MaGrath sisters, shoots her abusive husband, her two sisters, and other family members, flood into the rural-Mississippi home of their grandfather.Hilarity, sibling quarrels, pain and reconciliation follow.Even for veteran student actress Aarin Dutton, who plays the MaGrath sisters' cousin Chick, the play has been a challenge."It's a lot smaller than anything I've ever done before," Dutton said. "Some things about her (Chick) are similar to me. She's pretty blunt and I'm pretty blunt, but she's really straightforward and rude."Since seventh grade, Dutton has auditioned for every production at Central, with her first performance being "Cinderella"Up until this year Dutton also played volleyball at Central but, wanting to focus on acting, she told volleyball coach Claudine Mendazona this year she wouldn't be on the squad."Because it's my senior year, I chose this over volleyball," Dutton said. "I haven't actually talked to her (Mendazona) one on one. I don't think she was necessarily happy about that."In Witt's 13th year at Central, all as the choir teacher, he's finding it easier and easier to recruit good singers for musicals, but for "straight" plays, like "Crimes of the Heart," skillful actors can be a little more difficult.Finding good actors this go around wasn't too tough for Witt, though, with a newly-implemented drama class thanks to principal Greg Mitchell."He (Mitchell) -- probably because he was a former drama teacher -- instituted some drama classes," Witt said. "It was a slow burn for them (actors) until we really started diving into it. Now, they're realizing how good the play is." Showtime! What: Central High School's drama program "Crimes of the Heart." When: Wednesday (today) through Saturday, curtain is at 7 p.m. each night. Where: Central High Auditorium, 1530 Monmouth St. Independence. Cost: Tickets are $5 for 18 and younger, $7 for adults. For more information or to purchase tickets: CHS office at 503-606-2225.


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