Theater kids will strut their stuff again on VHS stage

After a painfully prolonged pandemic pause, the Vashon High School Theater Department has, at last, unveiled its lineup of productions to take place during the 2021-22 school year, beginning with the world premiere production of “the wild i” — a community-driven production written and directed by Vashon theater artists, starring high-school thespians.

The show — an evening of short plays — will bow at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 10, on the VHS Theater stage. The production is a fundraiser for the theater department and tickets will cost $10 at the door.

For new drama teacher Andy James — hired to fill the shoes of beloved teacher Stephen Floyd, who recently retired — the inaugural production and upcoming season of shows is a welcome sign of VHS’s return to “normal” life.

“Theater is also a huge benefit to students who really need it,” said James. “It transformed my high school experience and I want that same situation for our students.”

“The wild i” is an evening of short plays modeled on the 14/48 Project — in past years, an annual event on Vashon — in which an entire troupe of theater professionals makes 14 plays in 48 hours.

The students in ‘the wild i” will not be nearly working at the breakneck pace of the festival, but still, it will still be a full dive for the students into the theater production.

James recruited seven Vashon authors to write short plays specifically for the evening and seven Vashon directors (including himself) to direct them. The students developed the prompt for the author’s original screenplays: “What are dreams trying to tell us?”

The list of local luminaries who have accepted James’ invitation to work with local students is a who’s who of the Vashon theater community including writers Trista Baldwin, Michael Barker, West McLean, Aimée Lewis Van Roekel, Tamara Paris, Amy Drayer and Lisa Peretti; and directors Nic Warmenhoven, Mik Kuhlman, Anthony Winkler, Samantha Sherman, Charlotte Tiencken and Elizabeth Ripley.

Local professionals are also helping mentor the students in lights, sounds, backstage, and other aspects of stage production. Local musicians are also scheduled to perform in the show.

James said he is astounded by the effort, eagerness, and energy buzzing around the production and from the students who have volunteered to head the departments, run the costume shop, lights, and be part of the sound crew.

“This is what it means to be in a theater community — you are part of something that generates excitement larger than yourself,” said James. “Sports can be like that too, but we need these outlets for people who aren’t into sports. We need outlets in which students can pour their hearts into something and have a chance to be valuable.”

Students in the drama class and drama club will also put on two more productions during the school year: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” in February, and “A Spirited Manor,” by Seattle author Kate Danley, in late May/early June.

James polled his students for what kind of play they would like to perform, and many of his students were intrigued by the concept of a horror play.

“A Spirited Manor” is written in the Victorian-era style of the “penny dreadful” — a horror story that cost a penny to read. The production will be PG-13, James said, but will have plenty of scares and frights.

“The students were jumping up and down at the thought of a horror play and we can already feel the buy-in from that group,” said James. “The students are the creators and I think they should have a say in their production.”