Unified Drama: ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’


Hound of the Baskervilles cast lines up on stage following their performance

Hound of the Baskervilles cast lines up on stage following their performance

Sherlock Holmes: A man who seeks out the truth with confidence and determination. A man who always succeeds.

Holmes’ sleuthing, as recorded by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, has now been brought to the PAC this past Thursday in Unified Drama’s production, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

“We chose it because it has a message of truth, and success, and confidence,” director Brittney Edge-Leonard said. Edge describes one of Unified Drama’s many goals to be building the kind of courage Holmes possesses within all who take the class and “for people to take pride in who they are and their identity.”

In the face of an 100-plus audience, senior Rovel Obata, who played the part of Sherlock Holmes, and the other 19 performers spoke in clear voices that carried even to the back seats. The actors showed enthusiasm and personality throughout the production. Things like Jack Stapleton (played by senior Jamie Anderson), stomping around the stage and later waving at his mom in the crowd, or Jack’s wife/false sister, (played by senior Helen Nash) creeping across the stage behind another character’s back, allowed the audience to engage with the actors.

“We promote confidence over ego,” Edge said. She believes that after the fear of death, people’s second biggest fear is public speaking and the unified drama class works hard to overcome that fear.

Indeed, there was no visible stage fright on Thursday night when fruit fell off a table and the actors laughed along with the audience as they scrambled to pick it up. Even a briefly forgotten line is belted out with assurance when put on track by Edge’s off stage prompting.

Unified Drama started as a club but has rapidly advanced over the past years to become a 6th period semester class this and last year. The idea originated with assistant principal Jolene Grimes, who was in the audience Thursday.

“Without her vision this wouldn’t happen,” Edge said. Once proposed, Edge spearheaded the project of creating a theater class with “as much diversity as possible…to bridge the social gaps in high school.”

General e.d. students and those with disabilities were both present on stage and equally contributed to a smooth and well moving play. Whether a student spoke his lines from his wheelchair through a computerised voice system, or shouted them into the audience, they all corresponded with each other and moved the dialogue along fluently. The actors also varied in race, grade, and gender.

Tim Hilton is the certified teacher of the class and Edge, a special education assistant, part time comic, and professional performer, does much of the instruction and drama logistics. She was particularly excited for this play as earlier in her drama career she played the part of Perkins, the groom and stable caretaker for the Baskervilles. She invited her old director to Hale’s performance.

The class investigates “all elements of drama” and how “everything comes together to make something beautiful.” Likewise, the students investigate all the unique stories they bring to the class and unify them, through performance, into “something beautiful.”

This year the play was not only beautifully put on with fancy dresses, suits, and simple, effective props, but also very funny.

“And there was thunder and lightning,” Edge imparted to the audience when there was a delay in the sound effects. Laughter greeted this line as well as others such as the escaped convict’s “who me?” when spotted on the moore (played by Zusha Gallor), and the lines of the cook Mrs.Barrymore (played by Lu-Sheng Zhu) said while waving a large (pretend) chef’s knife.

“It’s a team concept,” Edge said. The whole class votes on which show they do –this year it was between Robin Hood and The Hound of the Baskervilles–and then work together to make the show a reality. Edge describes the environment as being one of student-as-worker; teacher-as-coach, in accordance with the ten common principles of the coalition of essential schools.

While the program has grown drastically at Hale since it’s start a few years ago, and has even spread the concept to Roosevelt high school, more growth is wanted. Edge is hoping to get some involvement from Native club in the future and generally incorporate a more broad group of Hale students. Her students have also expressed interest in in Unified Drama being a year long course.

Edge entertains the idea of making the club more political. With so much segregation and inequality currently in the world she feels spreading the idea of unity between people of all races, genders, abilities, and backgrounds is extremely important.

“This is what this country really needs,” Edge-Leonard said.

Photo by Sylvie Corwin

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