CGHS drama department offering range of theater experience

The cast of Cottage Grove High School’s production of ‘The Addams Family’ musical performs during opening night last Friday. The production has two more shows, this Friday and Saturday. There will be two more productions this school year, including “Pride and Prejudice” and “Radium Girls.”

The Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) drama department kicked off its 2019-20 season last weekend with two showings of “The Addams Family” musical, one each on Friday and Saturday evenings. Based on audience numbers, it was a successful opening run for director Janet Rust and her talented cast of actors and actresses.

“We had to put up three extra rows of chairs last night,” Rust said when asked about Friday’s premiere.

The comedy production — which will have two more shows at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22 and Saturday, Nov. 23 — centers around Wednesday Addams, daughter of Gomez and Morticia, who falls in love with a “normal” boy, Lucas Beineke. The two star-crossed lovers from divergent backgrounds must find a way to obtain both parents’ approval with help — and occasional roadblocks — from the other zany members of the titular family. 

“I really loved the Addams Family when I was a kid,” Rust said. “I also listened to the music and I really liked it and thought it would be appropriate for high school. It’s fun, the kids get into the campiness of it and I have the right kids for it too.”

Juniors Enzo Valdez (Gomez), Alex Keedy (Morticia), Darcy Rust (Wednesday) and sophomore Maia Wilhour (Lucas) take on the leading roles, while fellow sophomore John Swanson gives a particularly memorable performance as Uncle Fester.

“Our Fester, John, it took us a month to be able to do those scenes with him while keeping a straight face,” Wilhour said after the show.

But, from top to bottom, this a comedy-musical that the entire cast is able to have fun with.

“This is a show where you can have a script and you can have your blocking and you can have your lines,” Wilhour continued. “But, pretty much everything else you just improvise … I get to dab on stage! I don’t get to do that with any other show.”

Complete with an orchestra conducted by CGHS music director Devin Wright, “The Addams Family” provides dynamic entertainment for the cast and audience alike. Rust is very pleased with the final result.

“These kids have worked so hard,” Rust said proudly of her team. “Everyone is perfectly cast. Everyone on that stage can sing, including the ancestors ... This is 21 good kids on that stage, doing what they love and they have a passion for it. It comes through when you see the show.”

The CGHS drama department will have two more productions during the current season, “Pride and Prejudice” in March — which will be directed by James Scoggins — and “Radium Girls” in May. 

“It’s not the classic Pride and Prejudice,” Rust said. 

For their final production, “Radium Girls,” the company will take a dramatic turn to tell a little-heard story from American history.

“There were a group of women who were hired in the factories [during WWI] to paint the dials of compasses and things that went on the airplanes,” Rust explained. “So, they would paint them with this solution that had radium in it and to keep the brush tips fine enough to paint they would lick them and they had radium on them.”

“I want [the actors] to do something that’s going to stretch them and their dramatic chops,” Rust said. “A lot of the kids on stage are really good at comedy, and that’s really difficult to do.”

Tickets are available at the door and are $5 for students and senior citizens and $10 for adults. The CGHS drama department is completely self-sustaining — requiring no fees for students who want to participate — and raises all their funds by way of ticket sales.

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