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Students stage brand new play with ‘Clockwork’

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Columbia Junior High School drama students are hard at work rehearsing and putting the finishing touches on staging a play that will have its first performance ever in Fife schools. Co-directed by Columbia Drama Department instructors (and Fife High graduates) Hayley and Emily Rathburn, “Clockwork,” by Pat Cook, is an engaging comedy/murder mystery that has enjoyed successful stagings in numerous middle school and junior high theaters across the country. Now it comes to Columbia Junior High and audiences are sure to thoroughly enjoy witnessing the impressive acting skills of the young actors right here in Fife – and the whodunit storyline of “Clockwork” that will keep you guessing to the very end.

“It very much has an Agatha Christie sort of flavor to it,” according to Hayley Rathburn, who described the plot that focuses on an old grandfather clock that had been broken for years but suddenly starts chiming every time a character dies. “It’s a dysfunctional family and they’re all out for their grandfather’s money and so they’re all trying to knock each other off in different ways but nobody knows who is behind all of it. They’re all a bunch of terrible people that are trying to get at each other in different ways. All they know is that however many people have died, that’s how many times the clock chimes.”

She said the well-written script for the play is pretty advanced, with many of the actors having a larger than usual number of lines to memorize. “The line load is a lot but they’re doing a nice job and working really hard,” Rathburn said. Given the number of students who tried out for the play – a record-breaking 60 students – the troupe is up for the challenge. In fact, so many tried out that instead of turning students away, Hayley and Emily got creative in finding a place for everyone in staging the play.

“We wanted more to be involved so we created additional scenes to get more kids involved and we also created a backstage crew. That was a good problem to have,” Hayley said. As in all of Fife’s school plays, “Clockwork” is double-cast so that the maximum number of students can participate.

Indigo Young plays Nola Markus in “Clockwork.” About her character Young says, “At the beginning she acts very sweet but toward the end you see how sarcastic she gets and really changes her attitude toward the end.” Young said there are several reasons why she tried out for this play, her 10th one to date: “The jokes and the mystery of how all these people are dying – it can go either way as to who could be the murderer.”

Zoey Atwood, who plays Frieda Dunwoody, said she tried out for “Clockwork” because she enjoys working with her fellow students. “I really like acting and being onstage. It’s really fun to do. I enjoy these people; they’re really fun to work with,” she said. Even the large amount of dialog didn’t dissuade her, as Atwood exercises the “practice makes perfect” school of learning her lines. “If you work on it a lot it gets easier and easier,” she advised.

With 25 young actors in each cast, “Clockwork” will showcase the talents of many Columbia Junior High students, who are to be commended for their dedication to bringing quality, family entertainment to Fife. Audience members can help out in keeping Columbia’s Drama Department running strong by purchasing concessions at intermission and perhaps choose from among the faux silk roses that will also be sold. “This year we’re trying a new thing,” Hayley Rathburn said. “We’re going to sell faux silk roses for $2 each with a personalized message for whoever you buy it for. We’re going to see if that can raise some funds.”

“Clockwork” at Columbia Junior High’s Performing Arts Cetner plays Friday, Feb. 6 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.; and Sunday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are just $6 at the door.