The journey

By on November 6, 2009

High school actors worked with playwright through process
KANELAND—Kaneland High School’s Drama Department received special treatment while preparing for its fall play.

Professional playwright James Carter, the son of director and drama teacher Ilene Carter, wrote “Reaching Outpost” specifically for the Kaneland students; and the play is set in the Kaneland area in the not-too-distant future.

In addition to that, the students hosted Carter for a weekend in September to work with him prior to the final re-write.

“The experience for me was sort of refreshing,” Carter said. “The kids don’t B.S. you; they’re very honest.”

[quote]Carter said that when a writer is in the midst of writing a play, he or she is in a bit of a bubble. Watching the students rehearse each scene gives the play an opportunity to breathe, and for the playwright to find the holes and to tweak the lines.

“It was an opportunity for the students to ask, ‘Why is that character doing that?’” he said.

The chance for the cast to work with the playwright paid dividends for student and professional alike, especially for KHS senior Chelsea Roberts. Roberts, who usually plays character roles, will perform in the lead role as 18-year-old Zeada. She said that playing the main character has been a challenge, but one she has enjoyed taking on.

Roberts, who usually plays character roles, said that playing the lead role Zeada has been a challenge, but one that she has enjoyed tackling. Zeada is a strong female character, and Roberts has found characteristics within herself that she draws on to play the role.

“I asked her, ‘What are you most afraid of? What do you want most in life?’” Carter said.

One of the other more challenging roles is played by KHS junior Dylan Draper, who portrays a boy raised by wolves when he lost his mother in the disaster. The boy was traumatized yet again when the wolf who had become his mother was killed.

Draper’s character has a neurotic tic and a profound stutter. Draper said that in order to learn how to effectively play someone with a stutter, he watched people on YouTube and practiced until he perfected it.

Carter said he wanted to write something with many parts to give as many students as possible an opportunity to participate. The play has 12 speaking parts and features many extras and crowd scenes.

“That’s what education is all about,” he said. “You never know—someone with a very small part could someday end up on Broadway.”

Photo: Chelsea Roberts (above, left) and Jordan Withey play sisters in ‘Reaching Outpost,’ the screenplay written for Kaneland High School’s Drama department. Photo by Susan O’Neill

Kaneland High School fall play,
“Reaching Outpost”
A world premier written
for Kaneland by New York
playwright James Carter

7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13 &
Saturday, Nov. 14; 2 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 15

Kaneland High School

Tickets on sale now; cost
for adults is $5; $2 for children
for ticket order form

‘Reaching Outpost,’ by KHS, for KHS
The Kaneland High School fall play, “Reaching Outpost,” is about a group of children left on their own after when a pandemic wiped out an entire population of anyone over 9 years old. The disaster left 9-year-old Zeada, played by KHS senior Chelsea Roberts, in charge.

The children, assisted by videos containing lessons on how to live made for them by their parents, have forged a society with its own rules and ethics.

A decade later, after five years of silence, a distress signal from an outpost 50 miles away calls the children to set out on a journey to answer the questions: Who is calling, are they really in trouble, and is there really anyone else out there?

Zeada leads a group of seven children on a journey to find the Old Downtown Chicago outpost, while the others await their discovery.