Midland Adventist Academy

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Junior Class Benefit
The Class of 2011 presented Lee and Lawrence's The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail on Saturday night, November 7. This play was written in 1970 as a protest against the Vietnam War, and has presented in thousands of performances around the world. An excellent pasta dinner was served before the play, with the food provided by Paolo & Bills and served by members of the senior class. 

Henry David Thoreau, played with dedication and enthusiasm by Jacob "Hollywood" Trana, spends most of the play in jail after refusing to pay the $1.00 property tax on his little cabin in the woods. Here he befriends Bailey, a homeless man thrown in jail for accidentally burning down a barn. While not the sharpest knife in the cupboard, Bailey (portrayed convincingly by class president Craig Christensen) warms to Thoreau, especially after finding out that he is an author.
In one early flashback during the play, Henry attempts to earn a living by teaching school in the village. His methods are rather unorthodox, and he is called to task by a furious Deacon Ball. Hands on hips, Abbey Adams added a real touch of the spitfire to the Deacon's role, her lip curled in a sneer as she harshly criticizes Thoreau's refusal to flog his students.

After this episode, we are introduced to John Thoreau, Henry's beloved brother. The two of them come up with the idea of starting their own outdoor school where they can teach as they please. John, acted quite believably by Dustin Foerderer, takes up Henry's schemes with great interest, filling the role of obedient and willing assistant (much like Edwin Blackgaard's assistant Shakespeare in Adventures in Odyssey). To him falls the excitement of finding new students, and the worry at seeing them leave again as parents become worried about their children's unusual education.

John and Henry are both captivated by Ellen Sewell, the older sister of one of these students. Henry takes Ellen (played with charming sweetness by Victoria Williams) on a boat ride, and tries to express his love for her. Sad to say, he fails in his attempt at romancing Ellen, as does his brother John.
Along with Henry and Bailey, Ralph Waldo Emerson and his wife Lidian are major players in the drama. Nick Kanion portrays Mr. Emerson with great skill; his low voice and excellent pronunciation of each spoken word capturing the spirit of the "educated lecturer" to perfection. Equally convincing is Hannah DeCamp as Lydian; the heated argument between Lidian and Thoreau late in the play is one of the most intense scenes of the entire drama.

Edward Emerson, son of the famous lecturer, was played with innocence by Danielle Archibeque. The scene where Edward and Thoreau go hunting for huckleberries manages to be sad and funny at the same time; Edward learns the difficult lesson that one can often find good results right in the middle of the bad times of life. In her role as Mother Thoreau, Nayome Frishman was faced with the difficult task of constantly nagging and worrying about her unusual sons. Appearing and disappearing suddenly throughout the play, her short scenes always promise more bad news for Henry.

In another haunting flashback, Kirbi Yelorda forcefully took on the role and speech of an escaped slave; jumping onto a surprised Henry's back while he was out hoeing in the bean patch. Thoreau treats Williams with decency and respect, much to the surprise of the runaway. Along with food from the cabin, he shares his name with Williams, who departs for Canada as a much-happier "Henry" Williams.

After a nightmarish dream scene of the Mexican War in which Edward Emerson ends up on the wrong side of a bullet, Thoreau finds himself released from jail after his aunt pays the fine. Henry protests, but finally leaves the prison after convincing the jailer to give Bailey a quick trial and release him as well. In the end, we realize that no matter how tough our life or the world we live in, keeping our sanity depends a lot on keeping our sense of humor as well.

Other deserving members of the cast included Braden Frishman as the reluctant deputy forced to throw Henry in the slammer, and Ronda Wallace as an inebriated sailor, singing offkey at the top of her lungs as she staggered across the stage. Andrea Reed appeared as a townsmember in various scenes, Bryan Pope handled the spotlight, and Jacob Schnitzer was backstage propmaster.

The production was crisply directed by Ms. Deanne Walker, Midland's Language Arts teacher. She showed her director's ability and brought the Junior class together for a great performance on Midland’s stage.