As the Mountain Area stirs with fear, anger, and confusion over the unfolding financial drama of Yosemite Unified School District, Yosemite High School’s theater arts department offers a moment of reprieve and lets you laugh at it.
YHS drama presents Shake It Up Shakespeare, a modern day comedy about school budget cuts. It is a timely play about a fictitious school district that has cut funding for sports, lunch and even toilet paper.
In the play, the year-long drama program has been reduced to a single 15 minute class and is unexpectedly asked to perform a politically correct version of Romeo and Juliet for a school assembly in under a day. With few resources, little time and lots of quirks, the teacher and her students figure out how to make it work.
The choice of the play is no coincidence - on Dec. 11, Yosemite Unified School District announced at a school board meeting that YUSD would need to make $1.4 million in budget cuts by Feb. 15. The community, teachers, and classified staff have been in limbo wondering who will be pinked slipped, what departments will see cuts, and what the budget will look like for extra curricular activities. A voice that has has been under represented in the on-going dialogue is the voice of the student body.
“The students are very aware of everything that is going on and they are worried. They have real concerns and the play has been fun and cathartic for them,” said theater arts teacher Lars Thorson.
Hannah Harper, a senior at YHS is starring as the drama teacher in the play. Harper is concerned about the future of theater arts at YHS and believes it is important to recognize the role it plays in students’ lives.
“I first thought theater was just an elective but then I took it and fell in love with it. I used to be afraid of speaking in front of groups but theater has helped me learn how to communicate. It has brought me out of my shell,” Harper said.
The students worry of budget impacts is not just directed at the arts. Tyler Hellwig, starring as Romeo, wonders what extracurricular activities will look like at YHS, especially sports, after the pending budget cuts. “It’s important to have something to do, instead of just sitting around at home,” said Hellwig.
In regards to how Hellwig plans to manage the changes ahead he discussed what he learned from the play - “ Sometimes you just have to do the best with what your given and make it happen.”
Harper commented on her hopes for the future and well-being of the arts. “In the play the students give up but I have hope that the students of YHS won’t,” Harper said.
The cast of Shake It Up Shakespeare is Hannah Harper, Kim Sciaqua, Keiana Cramblett, Madison Washburn, Jessica Wade, Maile Peterson, Chase Brown,Vicky Rosales Valdez, Lily Stegge, Carlos Campos, Tyler Hellwig, Madison Gipson, Brian Hampton, Daylen Datchuk and Shyanne Marin
Shake It Up Shakespeare will perform on Jan. 25 and 26 at 7 p.m. in the YHS Theater. Tickets are $3 for all ages, and the show is appropriate for all audiences.
Proceeds will be fund the spring musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a poignant comedy that centers around a fictional middle school’s spelling bee.
Details: Lars Thorson, (559) 683-4667, ext. 256.