There are changes afoot in Peninsula High School’s drama department.
Kara Beloate, the new drama teacher, decided to change the way theater classes are taught and school plays are put together.
Now, instead of the majority of actors coming from the after-school Drama Club, they come from the Play Production class.
“Prior to my coming here, it was set up so the Drama Club was the performers and the Play Production class was the tech piece –– doing the lights, building the sets and so forth,” Beloate said.
Beloate, a Wauna resident for nearly eight years, decided it would be better if the technical work was done after school. And besides, she said, attendance at rehearsals was “a huge problem.”
“If you’re a performer and you miss a class, it affects everyone,” she said. “Tech –– you can fill in a little. So I told (Principal) Tim Winter that I thought it would be a better use of time if the tech things could be done after school.”
That was the way Beloate, also an English teacher, had run the drama department at North Mason High School for 21 years.
It worked great, “because kids who were athletes could be involved in a play. And now, having drama as a class instead of an after school activity, they can actually be performers too,” she said. “I really didn’t want for kids to be limited in the opportunity to perform.”
Beloate took over the position from longtime drama teacher Jonathan Bill –– a tough act to follow.
“Jonathan was so loved by the kids and he does lots of things really well. He’s very giving and generous with his time and the kids love him a lot. And that makes this (taking over the department) hard to step into,” Beloate said flatly.
But Bill wanted to step away from being in charge of everything in the drama department, so Winter offered the position to Beloate.
“I really had to think about it,” Beloate recalled. “I came here to teach English. I really didn’t want to teach drama after teaching it at North Mason for all those years.”
She approached the decision in a typically theatrical way: “I sort of auditioned the kids,” she said. “I asked myself ‘do I like these kids? Are they really motivated? Are they kids I’ll like working with?’”
Obviously, her answer was “yes.”
Now she and the drama students and club members are thick in rehearsals for “Our Town,” Thorton Wilder’s iconic story of life in a small town. “This is the 75-year anniversary production of the show,” she said.
The play will be done in “black box” –– on a very small stage, surrounded by the audience.
“It’s very small and intimate,” Beloate explained. “The audience will actually be on the stage. Some plays lend themselves better to that intimacy and ‘Our Town’ is one of those,” she said.
Beloate estimates that 90 percent of the student actors in the play live on the Key Peninsula, including senior Jean-Carol (J. C.) Romero, who plays the stage manager.
“The stage manager’s job is to connect with the audience and sort of guide them through the play. I set the scene and help them understand,” J.C. said.
He thinks having a new drama teacher is beneficial. “She has a whole different style, but I think it’s important to be taught by different directors,” he said. “And we’re able to get a lot more things done in this new system –– much more than we could get done after school.”
Beloate’s daughter, Emily, 17, also is in the play, playing the character Emily Webb.
“This is a simple play, but at the same time it’s very complex. It’s really an amazing message. It’s very poignant and I think people will really be moved,” she said.
Working with her mother is fun, she said. “She brings a lot of passion and creativity. She loves what she’s doing and she’s good at it and she knows how to keep kids interested. And this is her favorite play ever, so she’s very passionate about it,” Webb said with a smile.
Kara Beloate is looking forward to putting the spotlight on the students performing in the play.
“These kids are extremely talented and they have a lot to offer. They really deserve an audience,” she said.