Student directs PTHS winter play for senior project

By Robin Dudley of the Leader
Posted 11/10/15

The director of this year's winter play at Port Townsend High School is a student – Noah Phillips, 17. Directing "You Can't Take It with You" is Phillips' senior project, and with his poise and …

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Student directs PTHS winter play for senior project


The director of this year's winter play at Port Townsend High School is a student – Noah Phillips, 17. Directing "You Can't Take It with You" is Phillips' senior project, and with his poise and kindness, the calm, authoritative young man is getting the job done. "You Can't Take It with You," written by George S. Kaufman, opens Nov. 13 in the PTHS auditorium.

A senior in the Port Townsend School District's arts-focused OCEAN program, Phillips is grateful for the broad support he's receiving from his community.

"There are things I know how to do and things I don't," he said. Directing a full-length play with a large cast hasn't presented any challenges he wasn't ready for. In fact, he's ahead of schedule.

Two weeks before opening day, Phillips sat in the auditorium with his stage manager and assistant stage manager, while costumed actors filled the stage with lively action.

“I feel like we're super close," Phillips said. "Now, with everyone on stage at once, cleaning up blocking is harder," he admitted. It's easier for him when there are just two people onstage, and he's done a lot of work with just the two lead actors, he said.

The play includes a scene with fireworks in the cellar, conveyed through sound effects and flashlights, he said. It also has one "almost full-cast" live musical number, with a "guitar, cello, violin and a bunch of people singing." Phillips also plays guitar in a local band called Henge.

Student-directed plays are rare at PTHS, but Phillips is equal to the task.

He's an experienced actor and stage manager – he worked backstage at the 24-show holiday play at Key City Public Theatre last winter – and he's also a sound engineer. He launched a fundraising campaign and landed a grant from the Port Townsend Arts Commission to pay for production rights for the play, which premiered on Broadway in 1936.

"It's been a surprise just how much legwork goes into fundraising and rights," Phillips said. He's had a lot of support from the community. Jim Guthrie, a former PTHS woodshop teacher, offered his services for free, and the set was built in two busy days, Phillips said.

The title refers to "a grandpa talking to a rich banker, saying, 'You can't take it with you, Mr. Kirby,'" Phillips explained. The play is about lovers from two families, rich and poor. "It's officially a romantic comedy."


The cast includes Jefferson Community School student Rowan Gallagher as Tony Kirby; homeschooler Marcus Bufford as Mr. Kirby; PTHS students Diana Bond, Miranda Mcclave and Stevie Riepe as Mrs. Kirby, Alice Sycamore and Grandpa Sycamore, respectively; homeschooler Mahina Gelderloos as Penny Sycamore; OCEAN student Alexander Kuykendall as Paul Sycamore; PTHS students Sadie Palatnick, Ciara Halligan and Noah Falge as Ms. Depinna, Essie Sycamore and Ed Sycamore, respectively; Keira DeLuna (OCEAN) as Rheba; Ian Coates (PTHS) as Donald; Thomas Kuykendall (OCEAN) as Mr. Kolenkhov; Rosanna Widner (PTHS) as Olga Katrina and a cop; Pallas Catarina Birch Von-Bürhen of Peninsula College/Running Start as Gay Wellington; Tyler Manthe (PTHS) as Mr. Henderson and a cop; and Jacob Pederson, a student in the Chimacum Pi program and Running Start, as the head cop.

The crew includes Alivia Brass (OCEAN) as stage manager and Elli Coupe (PTHS) as assistant stage manager.

Alex Norvell (PTHS) is in charge of lights and Steve Arbuckle of lighting design, assisted by stagehand Mitchell Morris (PTHS). Libby Urner is doing costume creation and design, and Paula Sexton (PTHS) hair and makeup.

J.R. Kienle of Peninsula College/Running Start is doing sound design, and Sam Brooks (Peninsula College) is in charge of set construction and design. Guthrie also worked on set construction and design. Supervisors Liz Quayle, Jennifer Nielsen and Marcus Sather "are all teachers that have agreed to be at rehearsals, making it possible for us to use the auditorium free of charge," Phillips said.

"Everyone except for the supervisors, Sam Brooks, Jim Guthrie, and Steve Arbuckle are high school students. Sam graduated last year and is finishing up her AA. Jim works building sets, and Steve is a professional electrician."

There are four evening shows and two matinee performances of "You Can't Take It with You" over two weekends, Nov. 13-15 and 20-21. Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 13-14 and 20-21; and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 15 and Saturday, Nov. 21. The Nov. 21 matinee is pay-what-you-wish. For all other performances, tickets are $5 for students, $10 for adults. The play takes place at the Port Townsend High School auditorium, 1500 Van Ness St., Port Townsend.


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