Comedy, murder sets stage at NKHSComedy, murder sets stage at NKHSComedy, murder sets stage at NKHSComedy, murder sets stage at NKHS

POULSBO — North Kitsap High School junior Mallory McAfee believes she is not just acting when she performs on stage. She likes to think that she can fill the shoes of the person she is portraying.

“The character envelops me,” she said. “I actually feel like the ‘old aunt’ I play.”

McAfee is performing in “Arsenic and Old Lace,” the NKHS Drama Club’s first play of the school year. Playing Martha Brewster in Joseph Kesselring’s classic, she takes the stage as a polite aunt-turned geriatric killer.

“I’m a crazy aunt who likes to get rid of older gents and I take care of (society’s) problems by getting rid of them,” she said.

McAfee and other actors are excited to perform the ‘40s era play; a return to the stage for the club in the 2003-04 school year.

The performance of “Arsenic” also marks a turn in the drama club’s direction — the passing of the director’s baton to NKHS teacher Randy Powell.

And Powell is thrilled at the opportunity.

“I was excited the drama position opened because high school kids are phenomenal,” he said. “They’re going to go out and do community theater, theater in college and there just aren’t that many of them out there.”

Powell said he is pleased with the students he has performing in “Arsenic” — a surefire sign that the club will be ready for bigger performances later.

“The kids are very enthusiastic, follow direction exceptionally well and they have a great spirit,” he said. “That’s kind of exciting because I can see what shows we can do in the future. Next year, we’ll start with a Shakespearean comedy.”

Powell, who has taught high school and college drama, brings eight years of experience to the program. Still, he believes he has big shoes to fill.

“It’s hard to walk in and take over a program that’s done so well for so long,” he said.

One actor contributing to that success over the last few years is senior Caleb Penn, whose performance credits in the club include “Guys and Dolls,” “The Sound of Music” and “West Side Story.” Penn said he also hopes to act in college.

“(Acting) calms me down,” Penn said. “Its a great way to get out emotions and is a great outlet.”

Penn said he feels that director Powell is having to adjust a lot to teach drama at the high school level. Part of that adjustment for everyone involved is Powell’s insistence to quality and accuracy.

“I would say I provide very specific direction to bring out the most in a character,” Powell said.

“He’s a good director — sort of a perfectionist,” said junior Mike Stock, who plays Mortimer Brewster in “Arsenic.” “He knows a lot about the time period (of when the play is depicted). For him, everything has to be authentic and very organized.”

The choice of the play, Powell said, came from a need to get the club’s proverbial “feet wet” under his direction, as well as his love for the time period.

“I selected this play because the first one needed to be traditional, not too controversial and very dramatic,” Powell said. “As I get to know kids and their capabilities, we’ll do different things.”

“To me, this is true theater and a slice of life in the ‘40s,” he said. “You’ve got comedy, you’ve got murder and a little bit of everything. This is what theater was all about.”

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