South County Beat

Middle schoolers put on a show to fund drama upgrades

clambert@thetribunenews.comApril 28, 2014 

The sounds of shrieking emanated from Paulding Middle School’s multi-purpose building in Arroyo Grande on Monday morning as a class of eighth-graders rehearsed an act from an upcoming performance.

As longtime drama teacher Mike Liebo watched, his students ran through part of a “One Deadly Night,” which will open at Paulding and at Judkins Middle School in Pismo Beach in a few weeks.

During the first act, which features about 30 students auditioning for a role in the comedy/ghost story, each student delivered the same line with his or her own dramatic take. One student ended her line by doing the splits, another student sang it, and others shouted or whispered.

“I like plays better that engage a mass amount (of students) rather than zeroing in on six or seven of them,” said Liebo, who wrote the script based on an experience he had in college. “Generally the biggest risk here is the improvisation, because I don’t know what’s going to come out of their mouths.”

Toward the end of Monday’s rehearsal, Liebo asked his eighth graders for feedback on their performance that day.

“How do you take it to a level where people walk out and go, ‘Whoa, that’s great?’ ” he asked. “Your ability is there. You just have to believe what you’re saying.”

Student Dylan Krebs suggested: “I say just have fun doing it.”

Five casts with 150 students total are involved in the three-act play. Performances will be held on five evenings, and the proceeds will pay for the performances as well as upgrades to the drama department at each school.

About $18,000 worth of improvements have been made over the past two years to the theater at Paulding, which is located inside the school’s multipurpose room.

Liebo depends largely on ticket sales as well as donations and some district money to pay for the upgrades.

At Paulding, the money has helped to upgrade the audio system, replace the stage floor and buy microphones. Additional funds from the school’s parent-teacher organization and student body paid to install black-out curtains over the windows

Liebo hopes one day to be able to refurbish the lighting system, which could cost thousands of dollars.

Work to upgrade the sound and lighting systems are underway at Judkins.

“We totally redid the stage, new floor, the curtains, the set, everything,” said Claire Smith, a seventh-grade student at Paulding who’s an extra and a stage hand in the production.

When asked which role she prefers, Smith said, “I think I like being a stage hand more because I get to make the whole show come to life.”

Watch 'One Deadly Night'

Students will perform “One Deadly Night,” at Judkins Middle School in Pismo Beach on May 15-16 at 7 p.m. and at Paulding Middle School in Arroyo Grande on May 21-23 at 7 p.m.

The show is a ghost story featuring comedy, horror and deceit.

Tickets can be purchased in advance at either school or at the door for an additional $1. Tickets are $7 for students and $8 for adults. Snacks are sold at intermission.

Cynthia Lambert writes the South County Beat column on Wednesdays. Reach her at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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