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Success of 'Red House Mystery' attributed to talented team

The successful completion of a Graduation Challenge project typically sparks feelings of pride and satisfaction in one Champlain Valley Union High School senior, parents and community mentors a relatively small cheering section. Red House Mystery is a Grad Challenge project that has earned a cheering section that numbers in the hundreds. It is a partnership of three seniors, Noah Mease, Tyrone Greenfield and Jared Smith, playwright, director and producer respectively of the play that was presented on the CVU stage last Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings to almost sold-out houses. And the Graduation Challenge structure in which each senior chooses a project, does research, works with a community mentor/advisor, and creates a real product, created a community-spanning network of relationships that added to the learning experience, the historical context and, probably, the size of the audience. Noah, Tyrone and Jared built on experience in previous years of participation in CVU Drama Department productions, training under the CVU drama and music coaches Sebastian Ryder and Carl Recchia, but for the Graduation Challenge project they reached out to other experts for guidance. Noahs advisor as he tackled the challenging project of turning A.A.Milnes 1922 The Red House Mystery novel into a play was veteran theatre teacher and director Don Rowe. Tyrone worked with Mark Nash of Charlotte in honing his directoral skills. Nash, who grew up in Charlotte and was in the chorus of the first-ever CVU production, Bye, Bye Birdie, 30 years ago, worked as an actor, director, playwright, teacher and producer in Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, Minneapolis and New York before returning to Charlotte in 1994 and joining Vermont Stage Company, first as an actor and since 2000 as Artistic Director. Sean Leach of Williston worked with Jared as he undertook the diverse duties of producer. As Jared said in his program notes, If it didnt involve writing or directing the play then it fell to me. Planning for the Red House Mystery to be the spring drama production instead of the usual Shakespeare or One Act plays began almost a year ago, and a cast and crew of almost 40 has been designing, building, publicizing and rehearsing for the three performances on March 22, 23 and 24. They had an excellent cast, very impressive and flexible staging, an interesting story and Noah had captured the witty British dialogue that has made mysteries set in English country manor houses such a staple of the theatre on both sides of the Atlantic. The freeze-frame technique that was used very effectively to introduce the 14 characters, did not work as well when the leading character, amateur detective Toni Gillingham (Theresa Keller), is questioning each of the characters in turn as she approaches a solution to the murder. As soon often happens in a high school or college production, the portrayals of young characters was very good, especially the bubbly Betty Calladine (Haley Perkins), but the older characters need to pay more attention to movement and voice. Mrs. Evelyn Norbury (Lucy Weaver) and Mrs. Agatha Calladine could both have been more forward and domineering, Miss Angela Norbury (Marguerite Rose Seaton) more bashful and Mr. Mark Ablett (Matt Francis) more lecherous. Brendan Brooks as the grumbling retired Major Alan Rumbold displayed a real comic talent, waiting for the right moment to deliver his lines and capturing laughs like a pro. Jacob Tischler was outstanding as the oh-so-British holiday guest at Red House, Mr. Bill Beverley, playing Watson to Gillinghams Sherlock Holmes, and earning well-earned laughs. His energy was very engaging. Perhaps the best recognition of this Made at CVU play would be to make it a regular part of the schools drama calendar, giving a new cast and crew the change to hone it another year. Three nights of Red House Mystery were not enough.

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