Open Your Mind

JCC Uncommoners To Present ‘Speech And Debate’

The Jamestown Community College Uncommoners will present Stephen Karam’s “Speech and Debate” at 8 p.m. Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at the Jamestown campus’ Scharmann Theatre. Submitted photos by Don Hill

A month delayed from their originally scheduled production, the Jamestown Community College Uncommoners will present “Speech and Debate” in the coming weeks.

The production will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 15, at the Jamestown campus’ Scharmann Theatre, and will feature a small cast of five young, but experienced students in an intimate show designed to get its audience members thinking critically about the society in which we live.

The Uncommoners will be performing a revised and slightly updated version of the original 2007 Stephen Karam play, in which three high school students in Salem, Oregon, are brought together when they all uncover secrets about each other. Adam Owens, artistic director, said the plot is emblematic of many of the divisive issues so pervasive in the U.S. today, but on a smaller scale.

“These aren’t necessarily the same issues prevalent in the news right now; it’s like a little microcosm of a world with sexual overtones and political scandals going on in this small Oregon town and the students are trying to figure out a way to get their voice heard,” Owens said. “They may or may not always get their point across the way it’s intended because they are still high school kids and some of their ideas are a little out there. But they do their best and it’s just a matter of getting their voice heard.

“I think the audience that comes to see this show — the college and high school students, and their friends and family — will come away thinking about things a little differently,” he continued. “There’s a line in the show that says ‘If you come to listen, you’ll leave talking,’ and that’s exactly what the show itself wants you to do.”

In “Speech and Debate,” Diwata is an eccentric, frumpy theater nerd who hates her high school drama teacher, Mr. Healy. Howie, an openly gay 18-year-old senior, just moved to Salem and has started chatting online with a man who accidentally reveals himself to be Mr. Healy. Diwata decides to form the school’s first speech and debate team as a chance for her to perform, because she never gets a good part in her high school musicals. Howie watches her video blog rant about Mr. Healy and reveals that he also has some dirt on Mr. Healy.

Solomon, the bookish and overachieving high school newspaper editor, sees Howie’s message on Diwata’s blog and he tracks them both down to research an article he is working on, involving their mayor’s recent sex scandal — even though his teacher won’t let him write about the mayor in the school paper. Once the three students meet face-to-face, they form a plan to exact revenge on the drama teacher while uncovering more secrets about each other.

They try to get their story in the local paper with the help of a reporter but they’re afraid she’ll steal the story and write it herself. With the Speech and Debate rulebook by their side, Howie, Diwata and Solomon use their club to let their voices be heard in a world that doesn’t always want to listen to them.

The cast includes LeighAnn Schaffer as Diwata; Skyler Dunlap as Howie; Andrew Delcamp as Solomon; Ashley Farnham as Solomon’s teacher; and Anjelica Yudakova as a local reporter. Owens said the one-month postponement of the JCC production was due to schedule conflicts and the fact that he wanted to give his young cast as much opportunity as possible to be able to do justice to their roles.

He said a majority of the cast hardly ever leaves the stage and performs close to the audience, as the back of the stage incorporates some multi-media and projections of videos and simulated text messages.

Admission to the play is $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens and $5 JCC Faculty Student Association members and high school students. Tickets can be obtained by calling JCC’s box office at 338-1187.