WSCC students channel energy in drama club

When Washington State Community College student Nic Cochran said he enjoys theater because it’s a kind of stress reliever, the fellow members of the cast of “All the Great Books (Abridged)” burst out laughing.

“Some days it can be really, really hectic,” Cochran admitted.

But the cast and crew, most of them members of the Drama Llamas, the comedy/improv division of the college’s drama club, are looking forward to having a good time performing the play this weekend and having the audience laughing with – and at – them.

“I love everything about it,” said student Andrew Pomerleau, clad in a grass skirt and coconut bra during Thursday’s rehearsal for a scene in which he portrays Calypso from Homer’s “Odyssey.” “It’s a fabulous opportunity for some physical comedy, but it’s got a lot of high-brow material in it.”

“I also love the opportunity to embarrass myself in front of possibly tens of people,” he added, noting he plays a number of female roles in his overall portrayal of Andy the teacher’s assistant.

The drama club was resurrected at Washington State in the spring of 2012 when English instructor Amanda Anderson, Pomerleau’s wife, was asked to serve as its adviser. Anderson teaches a theater course at the college that’s part of the liberal arts transfer program, and some of the participants in the play, the club’s fourth, are students in it. But the club is open to any student.

“It helps build a sense of community” on campus, Anderson said. “I think that theater and the arts are very important to developing a sense of campus identity. And then I think the arts are an important part of any education.”

The club has about eight members, most of whom are working on this production. The cast consists of three students – Cochran, Pomerleau and Lauren Cunningham – and one faculty member, Mollie Jarrell, assistant professor of criminal justice. Anderson serves as director, and other students and faculty members help with behind-the-scenes items.

“All the Great Books (Abridged)” condenses 86 classic works of literature into an hour and 45 minutes, making it appeal to Anderson on multiple levels. She said there’s plenty of in-jokes for people who are familiar with the books, but also plenty of broad comedy as well.

“It’s smart. And it’s hilarious,” said Cochran, who plays a theater professor attempting to instruct the audience on the books featured in the play. “I mean, it’s so smart that I don’t get most of the jokes. So that must mean it’s pretty good.”

The play is designed to be adapted to the time and place in which it’s being presented, Anderson said. So the audience will hear references to Miley Cyrus and the government shutdown, as well as Washington State and its president, Bradley Ebersole.

It’s a bit of a departure for Cunningham, a Warren High School student taking classes at Washington State under the post-secondary enrollment option. She’s been in MOVP productions before, but they’ve been more traditional plays.

“This is my first comedy ever,” she said. “I’m not funny. It’s a big change, but I like it.”

The play will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a matinee at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. All performances are in the Graham Auditorium on the college campus.

Admission is by donation only, with proceeds going to the Connie Brant Memorial Foundation, named in honor of a former drama teacher at the school.