Howard native shares lessons on theater in debut as teacher

NEIGHBORS

November 16, 1998|By Sally Voris | Sally Voris,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WHEN THE CURTAIN opens Thursday at Howard High School's production of "Play On," the public will see Michelle Fowler's new role.

The drama and English teacher is directing her first play at Howard High in her first year there.

Fowler grew up in Howard County, graduating from Oakland Mills High School in 1994.

In high school, she played Peggy in "Godspell," Chris in "Rumors," Sarah in "Company," Lenny in "Crimes of the Heart," and Val in "A Chorus Line."

She attended Slayton House Camp of the Arts, then served as a counselor at the camp in the Wilde Lake village center for two summers.

Fowler graduated from the University of Maryland in Maywith a bachelor's degree in theater and English education.

She learned about one opening for a drama teacher in Howard County -- at Howard High School.

Principal Mary Day says the school has always had a drama class, but last year Day decided to recruit a drama specialist who would direct the productions.

Fowler brought a portfolio including performing and directing experience. Day says she was a "natural fit."

When Fowler walked into Howard High the first day of school, she recognized several students who had attended summer camps at Slayton House.

But she did not know what skills her students possessed.

So she held a day of dramatic improvisations and games to get to know them.

On the advice of Holly Pasciullo, her former drama teacher at Oakland Mills, Fowler chose "Play On" for her first production.

Pasciullo had taught Fowler during Pasciullo's first two years at the school.

"It's a huge responsibility that she's undertaken," Pasciullo said, but added that Fowler is "rising to the occasion."

In this comedy by Rick Abbot, a group of actors in a community theater tries to put on a murder mystery.

Throughout the show, the audience watches the actors "murder" the play.

The play is an ensemble-style production, in which all 11 actors are on stage throughout the show.

Auditions were held in September.

Fowler chose five seniors, two juniors, a sophomore and three freshmen.

Seniors Omar Bradford, Donald Chiarella, Rah-nee Kelly, Chris Luther and Matt Reiner appear on stage with juniors Jennifer Kuhlman and Ashly Walton, sophomore Bea Lewis and freshmen Brian Rhodeside, Mia Chiarella and Alex Wolniak.

To develop the characters, Fowler led the cast through discussions and improvisations. The actors chose a day and went to lunch as their characters.

The results show on stage, Fowler says.

She also found creative ways to involve the students in technical work for the production.

The students formed committees for lights, sound, public relations, props and costumes.

Fowler has met with the committees once a week since !c September.

Production staff leaders include Kent Sunderland, Chris Raistrick, Laura Schneider, Tony Abraham, Tammy Raistrick and Stewart Sinex.

Day says she has reviewed the script and noted the students' enthusiasm, but she "won't even open the auditorium door" to see the show until opening night.

Performances will be at 7: 30 p.m. Thursday through Saturdayin the Howard High School auditorium.

Tickets are $5.

Information: 410-313-2867.

Cleaners honored

On Oct. 6, Dunloggin Middle School's eighth-graders were awarded a Governor's Citation for cleaning up the Avalon Area of Patapsco Valley State Park.

The volunteer project was organized by eighth-grade teachers: Gail Bergtorf, team leader; Paul Higdon, Lori DeMoss, Greg Dubak and Candy Taylor.

DeMoss' husband, Lee, donated plants from his business, Terra Tree Farm.

Students' parents donated money and plants.

A total of 160 students picked up debris along the banks of the Patapsco River, removed non-native plants to restore the area, and weeded and created gardens.

Other students cleaned and straightened the building, which is being developed as the River of History Museum -- the only remaining stone structure from the town of Avalon, which was washed away by a flood in 1868.

Students created fall bulletin boards for the museum.

They worked under the direction of park naturalists, rangers, botanists, master gardeners, teachers and parents.

Math marathoners

A team from Elkridge Landing Middle School tied for second place in the annual "Maryland Mathalon," behind three first-place finishers.

The event -- sponsored by the Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the National Security Agency -- was held at MacArthur Middle School, near Fort Meade, on Oct. 31.

Parent Bill Cordwell, a physicist who works for Sandia National Laboratories, recruited four students who attend a Saturday DTC advanced mathematics program taught by Lynn Collins at Atholton High School.

The team included Cordwell's son Bob, two other sixth-graders -- Timothy Kosecki and Dan Eschliman -- and seventh-grader Ben Miller.

They competed in three rounds: an "individual" round, an "inventions" round and a team round.

The team took second place among more than 30 competing teams.

In the inventions round, Kosecki earned a first-place ribbon and Eschliman and Miller received third-place ribbons.

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