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La Cañada Playhouse gets youth more involved

November 21, 2013|By Sara Cardine
  • La Cañada High School students Charlie DePew , left, Anna Duncan, center, and Kylie Brakeman rehearse the play Beau Jest before a performance at the La Cañada Flintridge school on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2013.
La Cañada High School students Charlie DePew… (Raul Roa / Staff…)

Local theater-goers were treated earlier this week to a stellar performance of the play “Beau Jest,” in which a Jewish girl hires an actor to portray the (fictional) man of her picky parents' dreams and falls for the impersonator.

The spirited comedy was entirely performed and produced by advanced-level students of the La Cañada High School's theater department in a prime example of learning by doing.

The theater department is not just where students go to learn acting, says Justin Eick, theater teacher and chair of the school's fine arts department, it's a professional-level entertainment resource in the heart of the community. What's more, this year, all La Cañada Playhouse performances are free to the public for the first time ever.

“If you're looking for a nice, free evening close to home, I don't think you could do much better than the La Cañada Playhouse,” Eick says.

When Eick came to LCHS seven years ago from Glendale Centre Theatre, where he'd worked as director of education and outreach, he pitched the idea of creating a slate of 32 performances to be staged over a four-year period. By the time the rotation began again, he reasoned, students who have worked on or seen productions in the previous rotation will have graduated.

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In years past, performances came with a modest $10 ticket price to help defray production costs — lighting, props, costumes, sets, etc. But now that the second rotation of the productions has begun, the theater department already has the necessary accouterments on hand.

And this year, thanks to La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette, who made arrangements to help cover some logistical costs and labor after talking with Eick about the program, the department was able to eliminate admission costs.

“That bit of help was phenomenal,” Eick says. “We are now able to offer these plays for free to the entire community. It was an amazing gift.”

Sally Spangler, an LCHS high school college and guidance counselor and longtime supporter of the school's fine arts program, says La Cañada Playhouse performances are comparable to those offered by professional organizations.

“One of my treats in life is to stop what I'm doing in my office and go witness the genius that is the theatre department,” she says, also noting the school's other top-notch arts and music events.

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