Photos courtesy of Kelsey Gaulin
To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Robin Williams speaks these lines as inspiring English teacher John Keating in the film “Dead Poets Society.” He says careers in medicine and law are noble pursuits, but we live for the arts.
Teresa Hogan is Saugerties High School’s very own John Keating. This year she has taken over the senior high play, continuing her role in inspiring students to pursue their passions. “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” will be performed by students in grades 9–12 this weekend at the high school, and everyone involved couldn’t be more excited.
Part of the excitement comes from how much the cast members love playing their characters. Dan Caffrey says of playing Charlie Brown, “He’s clumsy, awkward with people, but he has that character trait where he tries to be friends with everyone. There’s this one scene where he tries to give a valentine to Lucy, but he accidentally says ‘Merry Christmas.’ He’s the loveable loser who tries hard, so that’s semi-me, I guess.”
Last year Kelsey Gaulin was the voice of Audrey II in SHS’s production of Little Shop of Horrors. This year she plays Snoopy, but she still finds a way to relate to the mischievous dog. “I really got in touch with my inner dog. And I sang a song in ‘Little Shop’ called ‘Suppertime’ and now I’m singing a song this year called ‘Suppertime.’ I’m always playing non-humans who are really hungry!”
Even Phoebe Defino, who plays Lucy, thinks she and her character are a great match. “Danny and I are definitely a perfect Lucy-Charlie Brown pair because he gets on my nerves, but I still love him in the end.”
This sentiment can describe the play process, as well; frustrating, but worth it in the end. The process of putting on a play can be long and arduous, but with Hogan at the helm, the students not only have had a blast, but have learned a lot, as well.
“I think it helps them come out of their shell; they learn communication skills, how to deal with other people under pressure, under stress,” said Hogan. “And even if they’re upset, they have to move past it and work out their problems. They learn how to come into their own, which is interesting because they’re acting as somebody else.”
For the past four years Hogan has directed Saugerties’ junior high play, garnering much praise. When the senior high play advisor position became available, she happily volunteered to take over, even while in the middle of producing the junior high play. Since the position became available so late this year, the cast and crew have been battling quite the time crunch. “She’s amazing for being able to put this on in less than two months,” says Gaulin. “We really appreciate all the work she’s put in. Sure we’ve been working, but if it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have this show.”
Caffrey also spoke highly of Hogan. “It takes a really special person to be able to mobilize a bunch of teenagers, some of whom have never even been in a show before, to show up every day and still make it a fun experience.”
The praise is mutual, and Hogan spoke enthusiastically about how appreciative she is of the cast and crew’s hard work. “I have lucked out with a fantastic group of students,” she said.
She also acknowledged faculty support. Music teacher Bernard Spirig and senior high computer lab supervisor Don Yacullo are providing live music for the show, and junior high social studies teacher Caren Duke and junior high principal Lisa Kappler created the backdrops that beautifully set the scene.
The bond created between cast members is strong.
“I’ve been on a lot of sports teams, and I’ve bonded with them, but in all honesty, I feel like I’ve gotten closer and bonded more with the people here than I have with most of my teammates,” said James Fisher who plays Linus.
Hogan echoes this statement. “Some kids weren’t friends with the other cast members at the beginning, and by the end we’re like a little family.” When a cast is as close as this, the production is bound to be a success.
And, like sports, the benefits of participation in high school theatre apply to other areas of life. “I’m going into bilingual childhood education, and I think teaching itself is kind of like a stage,” said Defino. “You have to put on some sort of front, almost a character, so I definitely think that it helps me with my social skills.”
Caffrey will be pursuing engineering in college, but considers theater to be a great passion. “It teaches you how to respect other people’s ideas which is something I struggle with. I’m attempting to learn how to work with other people. It teaches you how to disagree professionally, but still be friends afterwards.”
In “Dead Poets Society,” Keating finishes his monologue by providing the answer to Whitman’s poem. “That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
“You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown” has three performances at the high school: Friday, April 17 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, April 18 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.