Alternative Stages show brings out the teenagers

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  • Monday, March 3, 2008 1:05pm

“Miss Polly’s Institute for Criminally Damaged Young Ladies Puts on a Show?” A title like that? Who could resist?

I went. I saw. I discovered.

Sad to say, “Miss Polly’s” completed its run at the Wade James last weekend. It was an Alternative Stages production presented by the Driftwood Players as part of their commitment to non-mainstream theater and, as such, had a short stage life. However, it opened my eyes to some pretty amazing stuff locally, in Edmonds.

“Polly’s” is a comedy by Don Zolidis; a high school teacher in Texas who writes about teenagers, for teenagers and for adults who want something different. It’s daring. It’s honest. It’s different.

Clue: Teenagers. The Wade James was mobbed with them. They laughed. They talked. They came alive in ways parents will never understand. Why wouldn’t they? “Miss Polly’s” says what they think, feels what they feel and acts out what they wouldn’t dare act out because they know better. That’s right. If there is one thing you couldn’t miss, it’s that we underestimate them. The teenagers watching and on stage made it clear. They straighten each other out.

“Polly’s,” specifically, posits a lunatic autocrat, Miss Mylenbush (Carissa Meisner Smit), as a drama teacher in a school for criminally insane kids (hookers, dopers, murderers and the like). Mylenbush is determined at any cost to get “Hamlet” done her way. Her way, believe me, is an insane way that pretty much amounts to mouthing “Hamlet” the way English teachers teach it. It’s silly, crazy silly, the way folks who are off base see “Hamlet.” Also, it’s so undeniably pretentious the kids can’t miss seeing it for what it is and not going along with it. They rebel. Miss Mylenbush throws fits, tears her hair out and ends up giving up. The upshot is the kids do Shakespeare their way, a way that makes sense if you put yourself in their shoes and see things the way they see them.

I don’t say “Polly’s” was polished. The set was nothing to write home about. Acting was so-so. But it was one heck of a good time, interesting from the standpoint of what gets teens going and downright fun once you took it for what it was trying to be.

Actors with the exception of Smit and Dennis “Dutch” Heetbrink, were local teens who had auditioned for their parts. Bryn Kelly played Tiffany; Anne Arnhold, Gooper; Mercedes Donchez, Sam; Sarah Cullen, Jamie; Julia Helmeid, Kaylie; Victoria Felix, Roberta; and Kimmy Haney, Amber.

Katie Haney was Britnee; Thomas McLellan, Morgan; Morgan Heetbrink, Doris; Mara Willaford, Melanie; Brenna Durnin, Annie; Renee Ambacher, Lilly; and Rachel Spence, Luna.

This was community theater engaging teens and an example of a mainstream theater collaborating with a fringe acting company. Good for Driftwood. Good for Alternative Stages. Hooray for our teenagers. Good people, all.

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