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CHS Theater presents FOOT Auction

On Tuesday morning, Claremont High School’s Don F. Freuchte Theatre for the Performing arts was abuzz with activity.

Students in the musical theater class—clad in jeans, Oxford shirts and high-top sneakers—took to the stage to rehearse selections from the musical Footloose. Under the guidance of theater director Krista Elhai and music director Joel Wilson, the teens ran through crowd-pleasing numbers like “Let’s Hear It for the Boy” and “I’m Holding Out for a Hero.”

The young actors will also be showcasing some snappy dance moves, courtesy of guest choreographer Emily Dauwalter. Ms. Dauwalter, a CHS theater alum, is currently performing in the Candlelight Pavilion’s production of West Side Story.

The Footloose songs will be performed at the annual FOOT (Friends of Our Theater) Auction, which will be held tonight, Friday, October 30, and on Thursday and Friday, November 5 and 6, at the Women’s Club of Claremont, 343 W. Twelfth St. in Claremont.

FOOT Auction tickets are $7 presale (www.chstheatre.cusd.claremont.edu) and $8 at the door. Guests will be treated to dessert and coffee as well as entertainment. They are also encouraged to bid on an array of prizes, ranging from a spa gift basket to a baby grand piano. Some students have even volunteered services to be auctioned, like a group of boys who will offer help with yard work or party preparation to the highest bidder.

The FOOT auction usually raises $10,000. It sounds like a whopping amount until you consider the proceeds are used to fund the students’ spring musical.

Between rental of Bridges and the charge for the rights to perform the show, the spring musical generally sets the theater department back a good $35,000. This year’s production, Peter Pan, will cost an extra five grand, money needed to pay for the equipment and expertise of a company that excels in helping stage actors soar.

The auction is just the beginning

Students in Ms. Elhai’s theater production class are already deep in rehearsal for The Laramie Project, which will be performed on December 4, 5, 10, 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the Freuchte Theatre.  

Moisés Kaufman and members of the Tectonic Theater Project wrote the play. It recounts the reaction of the community of Laramie, Wyoming after Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was murdered in 1998. The slaying was later denounced as a hate crime.

It’s a moving production, one students are taking seriously. When senior Jason Acosta was cast as Matthew’s father Dennis, he felt compelled to reach out to Mr. Shepard. He contacted the Shepard Foundation and managed to arrange an interview.

To have your child brutalized and left for dead is an unthinkable experience.

At first, Jason didn’t want to bring up Matthew directly, for fear that it would be too painful. Mr. Shepard, however, surprised the senior by broaching the subject himself, a conversation Jason said brought the reality of the story home. “He said, ‘The people who did this to Matthew didn’t know him. If they had known him, they wouldn’t have done that. Because everyone who knew him loved him.’”

‘Almost’ to debut in February

Before the dust settles from the FOOT Auction, casting will begin for Almost, Maine, which will be performed on February 12, just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Thespian president Dalia Auerbach predicts the production will be a delight for the audience.

“It’s this beautiful, simple romance,” she said. “It’s composed of about 10 vignettes featuring normal people in a town called Almost. They are falling in and out of love as the northern lights work their magic.”

That show will be followed by The Little Mermaid, which students in Ms. Elhai’s children’s theater class will present on March 25 and March 26.

After that comes the season’s only extra curricular play, meaning any student on campus—not just those enrolled in theater classes—is free to participate. The show, set for April 21, 22 and 23, is The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), a comedic attempt to cram all 37 of the Bard’s plays into one 97-minute performance. 

Along with planning for the busy theater season, Ms. Elhai is engaged in a couple projects meant to make the school’s theater department more sustainable—and more likely to lead to real-life stage and screen jobs.

She’s hired a consultant to catalog the CHS Theater Department’s collection of some 10,000 costumes, complete with descriptions and size. This endeavor, which is nearly complete, will allow CHS thespians to get into the rental business, providing costumes for local schools and theater companies while yielding money for their own undertakings.

Ms. Elhai also has a former student setting up an online network for alumni of the CHS theater program. This will help the students and graduates of the program connect for community, mentorship and career opportunities. 

With so much going on at once, life in CHS Theater could feel like chaos. What helps the center hold is the supreme efficiency of the theater director.

“Ms. Elhai runs a tight ship,” Dalia said. “She has taught me to manage my time and to be responsible.”

Dalia hopes to attend Wesleyan, studying sociology and throwing herself into the school’s noted extra-curricular theater program. In her four years with CHS theater, Dalia has acted in numerous plays and tried her hand at every imaginable aspect of production, from makeup to stage directing.

As graduation looms, Dalia says it would be an understatement to say that the theater department has enhanced her high school experience.

“It’s sort of been my high school experience,” she explained. “I’ve done lots of other things, like varsity swim and IB [International Baccalaureate] Club. But theater is what has fine-tuned most of my applicable skills. It’s given me experience I can use in my career and in life in general.”

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier.com