The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


January 31, 2014

'Up the Down Staircase' shows things haven't changed for students

CARTHAGE, Mo. — Students today may live in a different world, but the problems they face while in school haven't changed a bit, said Tom Brown.

"That's why I think this is a timeless play," said Brown, co-director of a production of "Up the Down Staircase." "Look at the kids of today, and their problems haven't changed. They still have struggles between being a kid and adult, between doing what they want to do and what the adult world tells them to."

The play, showing at Stone's Throw Dinner Theatre until Feb. 9, tells the story of idealistic teacher Sylvia Barrett, who tries to reach the students in an inner-city literature class, fending off school bureaucracy and parents in the process.

Based on the 1965 novel written by Bel Kaufman, the play was adapted for stage by Christopher Sergel and written into a movie in 1967, which starred Sandy Dennis.

Hannah Marsh Cunningham plays the role of the teacher, and Brown said she handles the role wonderfully.

"You can't ever pre-cast, because you never know who will show up to audition," Brown said. "But I had her in my head for the role from the very beginning. She is just amazing. She's able to really find a character and become that character."

The cast is larger than usual, including 16 high-school students playing the roles of the inner-city students. Christian Stewart plays Joe Ferone, who embodies the collective problems expressed by many of the play's students through notes, memos, letters and other ephemera.

Brown said working with the students has been a great experience.

"It's been a pleasure," Brown said. "They have all responded to changes, direction, everything. They never moaned and groaned. They worked hard and did everything we asked them to do."

Brown and Dee Hubbard are directors for the play. The cast includes Robert Myers, Clint Dodson, Joe Kowalski, Stefani Atnip, Dexter Putnam, Betsy Fleischaker, Linda Craig, Wendy Wolf, Melody Salzer and Toni Diggs. Roles of students are played by Garrett Dunn, Drake Huckster, Molly Hurley, Noel Green, Lasha Dohle, Dakota Moore, Olivia Donnel, Tabitha Mather, Julia Oney, Cassie York, Ivy Kephart, Jalil Hamilton, Jelica Montelongo, Pamle Slagle and Eden Mather.


Want to go?

"Up the Down Staircase" will run from today until Feb. 9 at Stone's Throw Dinner Theatre, located at 2466 W. Old Roue 66 Blvd. Showtimes are at 7:30 on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Dinner is served an hour before showtime.

Tickets: $24.50, $21 for seniors and students and $12 for children.

Details: 417-358-9665.

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