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The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

The Student News Site of Summit High School

The Summit Pinnacle

Summit Theatre Goes All Out for “Rumors,” Despite Program’s Uncertain Future

A potential levy could be the only thing keeping the drama department funded
Mindy Mendenhall
Myra cast rehearsing for “Rumors” opening night

On April 25 – 28, the Summit Theatre Company will be hosting their last show of the 2023-2024 school year, their spring play “Rumors,” written by Neil Simon. Unlike previous years, where the last show was performed in the black box theater (the small pop-up stage that seats 65 audience members) or hosted outside, this year has been the first to promote two main stage shows throughout the season. And interestingly, this stage is the backdrop to not one, but two plays—a double cast, the Charley and Myra cast, with 18 actors in total.

The two-story “Rumors” set is gigantic and intricate, with a sloping set of stairs in the middle, six doors and a muted, pink lime wash on the walls. Watching this intimate ten-person play, you’re inside Charley and Myra’s lavish New York home, and having been constructed in under a month, its professionalism is even more remarkable.

“This set has gone up in record time,” said Summit senior Jillian Junker, who plays the polished, gossip-infatuated Claire Ganz in the Charley casting. “This is the only time in my Summit Theatre experience where we’ve had two main stages.”

Although seeing the same play twice might seem overdone to audience members, both casts have unique takes on the show that are worth seeing.

”I’m biased, but I also feel like they’re two different shows—and so, I think it’s interesting to see both, especially if you already know the plot from one, and see how it changes with both,” said Summit senior Connor Richards, playing the Charley cast’s snarky Lenny Ganz.

“It’s a lot of fun to compare casts because it’s the same show, but it feels like it’s from a different perspective when both the casts do it,” said Summit junior Berlyn Brumfield. While Brumfield plays Officer Welch in the Charley casting, they and their counterpart Naomi McLaughlin swap roles in the Myra casting.

“It came down to there needing to be two casts because there is so much talent, hard work and dedication that these students have put in and it’s incredible,” said Madeline Williams, a student teacher under Lara Okamoto. “It’s amazing to see their hard work pay off, and just how many of them really love this and choose to do this. I think really any elective or art form makes you a better human—whether you partake in it in the form of being someone on stage, being someone who designs and runs all of the mechanics and tech stuff behind the scenes—or even if you’re just somebody in the audience.”

And it could potentially be the last Summit show like it for the foreseeable future. On May 21, Deschutes County will have the opportunity to vote for a local option levy that would provide additional funding for the Bend-La Pine school district. If the levy isn’t passed, the Summit Theater Department will likely be cut or drastically reduced in size due to forced budget cuts. 

On April 9, during a school board regular meeting, members urged voters to pass the levy. 

“My biggest concern [for the levy] is that less than 30% of registered voters actually vote in May,” said board member Kina Chadwick. A lack of voter turnout could kill key supplemental funding from being approved. 

“Please vote for the levy,” said board member Carrie McPherson Douglas. “I take asking our community for a tax increase really, really seriously. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t think it was the right thing for everyone in our community.”

Without the levy, the future is uncertain for schools across the district, some of which have temporary positions for CTE and arts-based programs that could be cut completely to reduce costs.

Bend-La Pine is amongst many school districts in the state proposing a levy, including Portland Public Schools. The last levy sought by Bend-La Pine was in 2004, and that vote failed.  

“If the levy doesn’t pass, then I don’t really think we’ll have a theater company,” said Summit junior and “Rumors” stage manager Audrey Howes. “We do what we do on such a small budget already that it’s kind of a miracle.”

“There are certain parts of these jobs that require a lot of outside time—it’s not included in the salary you get based on your hours, and so the amount of work that these teachers and educators are doing wouldn’t change, if they didn’t want it to negatively impact the kids. It would just be their pay that’s changing,” said an anonymous source involved with the play. “It also kind of weakens the morale of the people doing these jobs, because they want to be able to provide all of this wonderful stuff for these students—this is their safe space, this is where they thrive in the school—and it in a way, kind of tells them; ‘we want this space for you, but we’re not taking action to provide [it].’”

Without the levy’s supplemental funding, theater class reductions could impact the shows for future seasons, with crucial advanced classes being wiped from the curriculum.

“The skills we teach in class get applied here,” said the anonymous source. “It’s a direct connection—you take the class, you learn the skills, and then you get to put all of that into action in a real, full-sized play that people pay to come and see.” 

“The arts are essential to students,” said Howes. “Students in the arts do better in other classes. It’s a safe place for a lot of students who aren’t seen or understood outside of the arts, and it helps create community and build life skills. As a stage manager, I’m learning to be more assertive as a person. I’m learning organization. We learn how to focus lights, build sets, make costumes—you need to sew a button later in life; you might not need precalc.”

The dedication from the Theater Department staff and student body is crucial to what makes the performing arts so successful at Summit. Every “Rumors” rehearsal is full of energy; from the stage manager handing out motivational stickers to full bows for the cast and tech crew. With the verge of the season ending, and the future of Summit Theater still uncertain, rehearsals have a note of bittersweet finality to them.

“If anybody has ever truly benefited from seeing a production or going to an art show or the live streams that band and choir and orchestra have done—any of that—this is the time to make sure you vote in support of these things,” said the anonymous source. “I have faith in our community and I really hope they show up for all students in the district—there are so many students that thrive in alternatives. I would hate to see our students kind of being let down by our community. If it starts to disappear due to lack of funds and we had the chance to bandage that and we missed [that opportunity], it would be pretty disheartening.”

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Adri Jolie
Adri Jolie, Co-Editor-In-Chief

“Mom, I finally made it in the newspaper! Are you proud?”

A brilliant mind and philanthropist, Adri enjoys classical music, regular music, rock music and all other types of music, as well as various forms of art, writing and anthropology, and tormenting her poor editors. Contact with any pertinent inquiries.

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    Reggie StromApr 25, 2024 at 12:25 am

    This is so incredibly important and could not have been written any better. Please vote yes everyone!