For senior Cambrie Opdahl, it was “Family Matters.”
For freshman Titan Kala, it was “A Christmas Carol.”
For Stephan “Cash” Henry, the director of Battle Ground High School’s drama club, the production that changed the course of his life was “Cyrano de Bergerac.”
“I was 10,” Henry said. “I walked out and said, ‘Mom, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.’”
It’s stories like these, and a significant need for financial support, that inspired the Battle Ground Education Foundation (BGEF) to award $10,000 in funding between BGPS’s three high school drama programs. The grants, given in February to Battle Ground High School, Prairie High School and River HomeLink, represent the first of their kind for BGEF.
“We have a passion to help our students,” BGEF Co-President Dina Sweeny said. “Who doesn’t love seeing students’ and staff’s faces light up when a wish becomes reality?”
Henry said the grant came at the perfect time for BGHS’s drama club which, like many other programs, suffered a hiatus during the pandemic. The hiatus hit particularly hard for a club that was barely past fledgling.
“When I started teaching in Battle Ground, Claire Verity at PHS ran a combined drama program, Prairie Ground,” Henry said. “In 2014, we split the program so BGHS and PHS could each have their own.”
BGHS’s program quickly took wings. In 2017, they were selected to perform at Edinburgh, Scotland’s internationally acclaimed Festival Fringe, an honor granted to only 40 high schools across the nation COVID derailed plans to return in 2020, but the club, undaunted, is preparing to send a team again this August.
This kind of flexibility is a trait Lindsey Guttig, who runs the drama program for fifth to 12th grade students at River HomeLink, exercises on a regular basis. Guttig is also an alumna of the program.
“Our program started in a cafeteria. Now we borrow PHS’s stage,” she said. “We borrow set pieces from Journey Theater. We rent our microphones.”
Students at an alternative learning experience (ALE) school, River HomeLink, have taken many different paths to get there. The school thrives thanks to its deep partnerships with parents. Parents make costumes, they design sets, they teach their kids to sing.
But Guttig said being an ALE school also means funding can be tough to come by. BGEF’s grant will be used to purchase, at long last, their very own soundboard.
“Even though we’re a unique school, students are still students,” Guttig said. “It’s important we give them the resources they need to succeed.”
Prairie High School’s Verity, who has just wrapped up a roller skate-centered production of “Xanadu,” will use BGEF’s grant for a badly needed scrim curtain.
At BGHS, Henry used BGEF’s grant to purchase modern LED lighting. The new lighting will allow students to perform without the need to physically climb up to change failing bulbs.
The director said he is blown away by how incredible and hard-working his students are.
“People have a need for this kind of storytelling,” Henry said. “It’s not just pretending to be somebody else on stage. It’s discovering who you are.”
Sweeny shared similar thoughts.
“As a drama participant for 15 years myself, these grants are especially thrilling,” said BGEF’s Sweeny. “Drama gives students the opportunity to explore and the freedom to create something that is their own.”
Senior Logen Nielson, who will play the Mad Hatter in BGHS’s upcoming “Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure,” said theater holds a special place in his heart.
“Sometimes it’s the only reason I get out of bed,” Nielsen said. “Nothing compares to being in this community and I am proud to be a part of it.”
Sophomore Logan Lowery agreed.
“There’s a wonderful magic you can only get from performing,” Lowery said. “And that magic, it’s everywhere in this club and it fills my very soul with joy.”
To learn more about the Battle Ground Education Foundation and how to help support students and schools, visit bgef.org.