SHS Drama Tackles Politics in “Mandate for Murder”

Pictured in front row (left to right) Colin Evans, Phil Stafford, Tim VanOrman, Bridget Crofoot, Dean Morris and back row (left to right) Amelia Brown, LilyRose Wright, Jared Lynch, Hope Spencer, Toni Schimmel, Anna Gerfen and Matt “Steve” Dickerson on the “Mandate for a Murder Stage” at SHS. Photo by Cheyenne Lehmkuhl.

By Sally Mayne

During the first two weekends in December, the Schoolcraft Community Schools’ Drama Program took on the tough topic of politics in a political satire which allowed the audience to vote and decide the ending of each performance. Director Christine Sargeant in selecting the play said she was looking for a production that allowed the audience to feel as though it was part of the performance. She went on to select a murder mystery coupled with politics. She had no idea at the time that our country’s real-life world of politics would be so very dramatic this fall.

As a political science teacher, Sargeant said, “I found it interesting that you see a lot of the same attitudes and elements that occurred in the recent presidential election also coming out here in our performances and ultimately making the play quite relevant.” Those attending the performances enjoyed plenty of political humor and the actors did an excellent job with their ability to improvise and come back with some great comedic lines as audience members questioned them on the issues at hand and their candidate’s stance.

Schoolcraft senior Bekah Bensley was cast as one of the candidate campaigners who moved through the audience during intermissions trying to sway voters. She played the role with gusto; ready for quick and often times comic responses to any questions audience members tossed at her about her candidate’s stance on the issues. Matt Dickerson, also a senior at SHS, played the character of Macauley Tarleton, a newspaper editor who seemed to know all the political tricks in the bag. Dickerson’s snappy cynical and amusing responses to audience questions were delightfully witty.

Several of the actors have theatre-related goals after high school. SHS senior Lily Wright has participated in a number of performances in Schoolcraft and has also been involved with Kalamazoo Civic Theatre performances. After high school, she plans to attend college out of state, majoring in theatre design. Maegan Sargeant, stage manager; scene, costume and sound designer backstage and candidate campaigner on stage is a student who is no stranger to the stage. She said her first love is really the role of a stage manager, so much so that she plans to major in stage management as she enters college next fall. “Challenges for me with this production have been staying up with the actors, since there is improv involved in the performances, and then I would quickly need to switch from the stage manager role to my acting role as one of the campaigners working the audience,” Sargeant said.

Also incorporated into the performance was a large drop down “news screen” with some hilarious political promotional videos put together by students. It starred familiar faces from around Schoolcraft and at the high school. At the final intermission, audience members were able to cast their ballot for the candidate of their choice, so that there were actually three possible endings students rehearsed for the play, depending on the “voice of the people” from each performance.

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