JDHS production of popular play 'Holes' has no trouble filling cast

Posted: Thursday, November 09, 2006

Children's theater productions can be a hard sell with Juneau-Douglas High School drama students. That wasn't the case with "Holes," Louis Sachar's adaptation of his Newbery Medal-winning novel.

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Almost 80 students showed up to audition for the 18-member cast.

"Kids were literally stopping me in the halls and asking about it,'" JDHS drama teacher Bethany Bereman said. "They love it. They've all read the book. They've all seen the movie."

"Holes," a fast-paced mystery about a young man wrongly sentenced to a detention center for stealing a pair of shoes, opens at 7 p.m. Saturday and runs through Nov. 18 at the JDHS auditorium.

"It kind of involves a magical side, but still keeps it very real and modern," said junior Mary Erickson, who plays The Warden. "It makes it interesting on a lot of levels. "Everyone was really intrigued about how they were going to (present the play)."


A Juneau-Douglas High School drama production

• When: 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 17; 7 p.m. Sunday and Nov. 18.

• Where: JDHS auditorium.

To create the image of parched Green Lake, where the inmates toil digging holes in the barren bed, the drama department turned the stage into a giant slope with Perseverance Theater's 9 degree inclined wooden rake. Juneau set veteran Art Rotch designed the set.

At its highest point, the stage is 6 feet above the ground. One of the holes near the front of the stage also sinks 6 feet. It's the same rake that was used in Perseverance Theatre's 2003 production of "Up! The Man In The Flying Lawn Chair."

"We knew that we'd have to levitate the floor in some way to make the holes dynamic enough that the kids could get in them and the audience could actually see them," director Shona Strauser said. "To work on a rake is a balance thing. It's trying to figure out how your body fits in a space while balancing."

Strauser saw "Holes" in 2002, when it was making its stage debut at the Seattle Children's Theatre. Sachar wrote the adaptation.

"It blew my mind," Strauser said. "I love children's theater; I think it's wonderful. I really enjoy trying to connect theater with literacy, especially for younger people. This is a perfect fit, because lots of kids read the book."

Through the play moves quickly, Sachar explores a series of weighty issues. In the flashbacks, the audience learns Green Lake has dried because a black man was killed for kissing a white woman. In the present, the juvenile prisoners deal with discrimination, bullying, class distinctions and the importance of friendship.

"The play clips," Strauser said. "It goes really fast and it's interesting and funny and poignant, yet it's a really deep issue. It doesn't poke fun, and it's not heavy-handed at all."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com

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