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Woodland High School's drama students prepare for their production of "Our Town" with their new director

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Woodland High School's drama students are preparing to put on their production of "Our Town," the first performance directed by the school's new drama director, with performances November 17-19 each night at 7 p.m.

Woodland High School's new drama director, Branden McFarland (right), prepares the student actors for their first full run-through.
Woodland High School's new drama director, Branden McFarland (right), prepares the student actors for their first full run-through.

Drama productions attract participation from a wide variety of high school students interested in participating in non-athletic extracurricular activities. "Our program's student demographics really encompass all kinds of students," said Heather Gordon, an English teacher who helps manage the drama productions. "The drama program lets students express themselves in a variety of ways where they can also build language skills and a true understanding of history."

Gordon started managing and directing the school's drama productions in 2012. "The program has grown a lot since I started," she said. "Managing drama productions is incredibly demanding requiring many, many hours after school, but I loved doing it."

Drama performances attract students from all walks of life who want to perform for others and build their self-confidence.
Drama performances attract students from all walks of life who want to perform for others and build their self-confidence.

This year, Gordon and the administrative staff at the school brought on a dedicated drama director, Branden McFarland, with Gordon serving as the executive producer working behind the scenes to arrange facilities and organize funding for the different productions. "It's nice to have it feel like a team now with Branden on-board," said Gordon. "It's good to have the team effort!"

McFarland graduated from Prairie High School in Battle Ground in 2010, and got his start as a director by helping out with his high school's productions. "I was hired on to help coach and teach which resulted in recommendations to other school districts," he said. "About three years ago, I came to Woodland to help teach stage combat and loved the school and community here."

McFarland works to build up each and every student's self-confidence by showing them how exciting it can be to perform on-stage.
McFarland works to build up each and every student's self-confidence by showing them how exciting it can be to perform on-stage.

McFarland believes drama can help students from all walks of life regardless if they're incredibly outgoing or very shy. "I was a frustrated teenager who was really shy in high school when a friend convinced me to try out for a school play," he explained. "The performance gave me so much self-confidence that I kept participating throughout high school, and wanted to come back after graduating to help other students who might be like me."

Building up student self-confidence continues to provide the biggest challenge with the biggest reward for McFarland. "The toughest part about teaching students is getting them to see how awesome they already are; they're often their own worst critics," he said. "There's no one trick to helping kids because they're each unique so it's a matter of figuring out what techniques work to motivate each and every one."

In order to involve as many students as possible, McFarland selects plays with enough roles for all of the students interested in participating. "The ensemble work in 'Our Town' makes it the perfect choice for whatever size group we have," he said. "My favorite time during a production is when students start developing their characters by throwing their own creativity in the mix; that's when they get to become artists."

The ensemble work in "Our Town" offers a wide variety of roles for students of different experience levels.
The ensemble work in "Our Town" offers a wide variety of roles for students of different experience levels.

The Woodland High School drama department will put on their production of "Our Town" open to the public with performances on Thursday, November 17; Friday, November 18; and Saturday, November 19 starting at 7 p.m. The show is recommended for audience members 14 years of age and older with adult tickets available for $6 each and student tickets available for $2 each.

The cast includes: Austyn Diraimo, Bree Anne Driver, Mary Beth Hall, Vanessa Hansen, Elizabeth Hunt, Austin Matthiesen, Sierra McIver, Julea Orem, Katelyn Paulson, Jesse Potter, Emily Rivers, Evelyn Roehn, Kacy Shreiner, Jon Smith, Maria Tuz, Tim Valencia, Emma Vandekrol, Caytlin VonBargen, and Nathan Warner.

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