Arianne Ferare stands near the piano as she and cast members rehearse songs from San Benito High School's production of "Once Upon A Mattress."

Drama students talk openly about looming budget cuts to their
favorite program as they rehearse for upcoming musical
Ask Angela Merrell why she enjoys acting in plays, and a smile
seems to light up the 14-year-old from the inside out.

I love the theater,

said Angela, taking a break from rehearsals for

Once upon a Mattress,

San Benito High School’s upcoming musical.

I’m really excited about this show. It’s a really fun show and
the music is fun. It’ll be a great experience for everyone.

But ask Angela about the possible cuts to the high school’s
drama program, and that light extinguishes as easily as the flame
of a candle.
Drama students talk openly about looming budget cuts to their favorite program as they rehearse for upcoming musical

Ask Angela Merrell why she enjoys acting in plays, and a smile seems to light up the 14-year-old from the inside out.

“I love the theater,” said Angela, taking a break from rehearsals for “Once upon a Mattress,” San Benito High School’s upcoming musical. “I’m really excited about this show. It’s a really fun show and the music is fun. It’ll be a great experience for everyone.”

But ask Angela about the possible cuts to the high school’s drama program, and that light extinguishes as easily as the flame of a candle.

“If the school board says that kids are their first priority, then they shouldn’t be cutting these types of programs,” Angela said. “It’s frustrating. I don’t know what I’ll do if they take drama away. And a lot of kids depend on the theater for friends, or to keep them busy or to make them feel needed.”

Rehearsals for “Mattress” are an upbeat affair, for the most part. Although the students work hard, laughter fills the auditorium as they try on costumes, practice songs and run through lines.

The thought that this might be the last drama production at San Benito for a while is never far from their thoughts, however.

“I’m really scared for everyone,” said Sarah Smith, 18, who, as a senior, will be performing in her last SBHS show. “Even though it doesn’t affect me, it affects a lot of my friends, so I’m hoping for the best. If it were to go away I’d be extremely sad.”

“Once upon a Mattress” is a musical-comedy that takes the traditional tale of “The Princess and the Pea” and turns it on its head. “Mattress” tells the story of Princess Winnifred, who one day meets the handsome prince Dauntless. Dauntless’ mother, Queen Aggravaine, has created a law that no one may wed until Dauntless does. But Aggravaine believes that no woman is good enough for her son, so she devises several difficult and unfair tests which no one can pass. For her test, Winnifred is forced by Aggravaine to sleep on a huge 20-layer bed. As in all fairy tales, true love wins out in the end, Winnifred and Dauntless marry and everyone lives happily ever after.

“Personally, I find this play very funny,” said Sarah, who is one of two students playing Winnifred. “It has really catchy tunes and the lyrics are really funny.”

Because so many students wanted to take part in the spring musical, drama instructor Kristin Porter chose to dual cast many of the roles. Sarah shares the role of Winnifred with Jessica Frey, and Dauntless is played by Sam Doty and Tyler Savitt. Angela Merrell plays both Nightengale and Lady Lucille. Queen Aggravaine is played by Beth Bonnand.

Sarah said she was “ecstatic” when she found out she had been one of the students cast as Winnifred.

“When I auditioned I was set on this role,” she said. “This woman is very abrasive and annoying and that is very fun to play.”

There are approximately 40 students involved in the play, which rehearses every day after school in the auditorium. Porter is directing the show, and Amy Oelrich is the musical director. Sophomore Katie Thorpe is the show’s choreographer and also plays the part of Lady Beatrice. With the show opening tonight, some students are finding out just how demanding life in the theatre can be.

“I’m in two big shows right now,” said Sarah, who also has a role in San Benito Stage Company’s upcoming production of “Footloose.” “I’m rarely home anymore. But it’s all worth it. Once you’re onstage and performing it’s just such a rush.”

Senior Brandon Harami, 17, who plays the Minstrel, is performing in his first and last SBHS show. He said he’s very excited to be part of a musical such as “Mattress.”

“I just recently got into drama. I’d done some improv and I wasn’t being challenged by that anymore, and so I figured I’d do a musical,” Brandon said. “I’m really, really excited, and I’m really, really nervous, but I think the excitement outweighs the nervousness.”

Brandon said he is dismayed by the thought that the drama program may be cut next year.

“Kids face a lot of difficulties in high school and they have to be able to express themselves,” he said. “School is so stressful. In a way, theater is like therapy. Right now I just want to give the very best performance I can to show the administration what we can do. I would do this show every night until the end of year if it would make a difference.”

Speak Out

Students and parents concerned about possible cuts to the San Benito High School drama program, as well as other programs and courses, can attend the next SBHS district board meeting Wednesday, April 23. Meetings usually begin at 7 p.m. in either room 172 or room 223. Call 637-5831 x 134 to verify dates, times, and location.

The public can also contact board of trustee members directly via the following e-mails: William Tiffany, president – [email protected]; Evelyn Muro, clerk – [email protected]; Steve DeLay, trustee – [email protected]; Mary Encinias, trustee – [email protected]; Joseph N. Gardner, trustee – [email protected]. Links to these e-mail addresses are available at http://www.sbhsd.k12.ca.us/home/board/schoolboard.htm.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.

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