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Del Oro drama revisits 'You Can't Take It With You'

By: Leah Rosasco, Loomis News Correspondent
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“You Can’t Take It With You” 

What:  Del Oro Theatre Arts Department performance        

When: 7:30pm, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Nov. 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17            

Where: Del Oro Performing Arts Center, 3301 Taylor Road         

Cost: $8

Information: 652-7243, ext. 1559, johnson@puhsd.k12.ca.us; or sites.google.com/a/puhsd.k12.ca.us/performing-arts/

The Del Oro High School performing arts department revisits its first play ever performed when they present “You Can’t Take It With You.”

Back in 2004, the 1937 Pulitzer prize-winning was the first production performed by the newly created Del Oro Theatre Arts Department. Because the school’s performing arts center was not yet completed, the performance was given before a limited audience on a stage constructed in the school’s cafeteria.  Jeff Johnson, founding director of the theatre arts program, decided to bring the play back this year and give it a proper performance in the school’s theater.

“I thought it would be fun to do it the right way with lights and sound and a stage,” Johnson said of the school’s upcoming performance.

The play takes place in 1936 in a New York City apartment where Martin Vanderhof, or Grandpa, lives with a large and eclectic group of people, including family members and friends.  When a young man named Tony arrives to woo one of the man’s granddaughters, gaining the approval of Tony’s straight-laced parents is no guarantee.

For the past seven weeks, the cast and crew, made up of 27 students from each grade level, have been rehearsing for several hours each day.

“The chemistry among the cast is largely prescribed by the script, so my job is to make sure the actors are compatible physically and aesthetically,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the cast members were selected through auditions, while members of the technical crew were selected from a pool of students who applied through technical theatre class.

“It’s important to have the right people in the right place,” Johnson said. “They have to work together to achieve a common goal.”

Junior Will Richardson, who has participated in past productions at Del Oro, will play the main character of Grandpa. Richardson auditioned for several parts and said although he was pleased to land the lead role he is mainly just happy to be involved in the production.

“It’s a big group of people and it feels like a family,” Will said. “It’s a great way to spend time with my friends.”

Besides the social benefits of participating in theatrical productions, Susan Mattal, whose daughter Brianna is a sophomore at Del Oro, said she believes participation in the drama programs helps improve student’s test scores.

“There have been studies on this kind of thing and the benefits to the students are very real,” Mattal said.

Johnson’s dedication to the students makes Del Oro’s drama program unique, Mattal said. She said his wife, Gina Musilli, volunteers her time and skills to design and make costumes for the plays.

“Mr. Johnson is amazing with those kids and I know he works a lot of hours he doesn’t get paid for,” Mattal said.

Although Mattal’s daughter will not be performing in the upcoming play, Mattal is currently contacting local businesses to secure items for a silent auction that will be held at several of the performances to raise funds for the theatre arts department. Although additional funds would enable the department to purchase a new sound board and upgrade costumes, lighting, and set design, Mattal said one of the greatest expenses is purchasing the rights to perform musicals.

“There are so many gifted kids at Del Oro,” Mattal said. “I really think with some community support we could have the best program around.”