Battle Ground High School drama students return to the stage with original play

The drama club held three shows at The Lair inside Battle Ground High School last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, entertaining a total of 160 people

For the first time in over a year, the Battle Ground High School drama club returned to the stage last week with the words, “Hello, my name is Edward Deadman and I am dead.”

Battle Ground High School drama students Avarie Rhyasen and Maria Wetzbarger perform in John R. Carroll's "Oh, What a Tangled Web." Photo courtesy of Battle Ground School District
Battle Ground High School drama students Avarie Rhyasen and Maria Wetzbarger perform in John R. Carroll’s “Oh, What a Tangled Web.” Photo courtesy of Battle Ground School District

So begins an original sketch written by Battle Ground High School senior Andrew Ovall and junior Lorelei Hunsaker. The simply named “A Radio Play” reads like a murder mystery from the days of Old Time Radio, with fast-paced banter and witty wordplay aplenty.

“Mere moments ago I was dancing with a few friends in my ballroom and, as it goes, I died,” Ovall reads on stage as the recently deceased Deadman. “Icepick through the neck. We’ve all been there.”

The drama club held three shows at The Lair inside Battle Ground High School last Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, entertaining a total of 160 people.

“Being back in the theater space was life-affirming,” said drama teacher and director Stephan “Cash” Henry. “It was so wonderful to share a communal, creative experience with a live, in-person audience again, to be together, to share laughter, to share life.”

The original play by Ovall and Hunsaker took around a month to write, but much longer to finally make it in front of a live audience after the pandemic shut down schools last year. “It was a huge relief for me just knowing that it’s out there,” Ovall said after the final rehearsal. “We’re doing it.”

The senior was set to appear in a stage version of Romeo and Juliet last March when school buildings were closed and learning turned remote due to the pandemic. Hunsaker was also part of that production. “It was hard for me because a lot of seniors didn’t get their sendoff and we had an all-star cast. But it’s in the past. I can’t wallow in it or I’ll just never stop hurting.”

Battle Ground High School senior Andrew Ovall (center) reads part of an original play he co-wrote with junior Lorelei Hunsaker. Photo courtesy of Battle Ground School District
Battle Ground High School senior Andrew Ovall (center) reads part of an original play he co-wrote with junior Lorelei Hunsaker. Photo courtesy of Battle Ground School District

Henry said he was “heartbroken” for last year’s seniors when that play was shut down. “The students have shown me such maturity and resilience this year,” he said. “We have organized Zoom play readings and have been able to connect remotely throughout the year, but it just isn’t the same as working together in person.”

Henry said after the state eased restrictions on youth sports he felt the new guidelines were not aligned across activities. “I began writing letters and calling the arts department of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction,” he said. A few weeks later, the state updated its guidelines and the drama club was able to hold auditions and begin preparing for their first shows in over a year.

In addition to Ovall and Hunsaker’s original play, the drama club also put on a stage production of John R. Carroll’s “Oh, What a Tangled Web,” which involves yet another misunderstanding over a death; only this one is imaginary rather than real.

Ovall calls it “incredibly bittersweet” to be finishing up his time on stage as a Battle Ground High School student. “I’m so sad to leave,” he said, “I love this place.”

Hunsaker and Ovall said they hope to be able to flesh out their play a little further, and perhaps expand it to a stage production with props and costumes. Until then, they’re hopeful their own experience over the past year helps future thespians to appreciate the time they have in the nurturing confines of high school. “Four years sounds like a very long time at the beginning, but it really is not,” Ovall said. “Just take what you have and make the most of it.”

Information provided by Battle Ground School District.

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