Port Townsend students prepare for 'Odyssey'
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Lisa Doray shows Grant Street Elementary student Ellijah Eickmeyer how to make a dog's head for the upcoming production of "The Odyssey," by Homer.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — A portable classroom at Grant Street Elementary School is bursting with activity this week as students prepare for a districtwide play adaptation of Homer's epic poem The Odyssey, to be performed in March.

“This is a great opportunity for the kids,” said parent Debbie Sonandre, one of many volunteers on the Port Townsend School District production.

“They learn about the characters and can judge their actions,” she said.

“For instance, Odysseus seems very generous at some times, while at others, he only does things for himself.”

“The Odyssey” will be performed six times on two weekends at the Mountain View Commons gym, 1919 Blaine St.: Friday-Saturday, March 15-16, and Friday-Saturday, March 22-23.

Performances will take place at
7 p.m. Fridays and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays. Admission is by donation.

The production is under the auspices of the Opportunity, Community, Experience, Academics, Navigation Program — or OCEAN — an alternative education program formerly known as ICE.

The play has a cast of 28 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

In addition, 10 students are involved in set construction and other technical aspects.

This week, they are filling the OCEAN classroom at Grant Street with set design, early rehearsals and musical practice.

One day this week, while one group of students fashioned the structure for large dog heads, another sat in the corner and practiced a scene in which they pretended to be aboard a galley rowing toward their destination.

Homer's ancient Greek epic poem “The Odyssey” tells the story of Odysseus, or Ulysses as he is also known, and his 10-year journey home after the end of the Trojan War.

The presentation, an adaptation of the poem, is directed by Marc Weinblatt, who also edited the material in order to suit the students' comprehension level, according to Sonandre.

This is the third year the district has produced a multi-age production.

It is not only highly entertaining, but teaches the students to interact, Sonandre said.

“The older kids engage the younger kids, who see how hard it is to learn lines,” she said.

“All of them work really hard.”

The creative process is more intense and rewarding than in a regular art class, said artist Thaddeus Jurczynski, who is working with the building of sets.

“Not only are the kids creating art, but they are creating art with a purpose,” Jurczynski said.

“There are a lot of different ways to do the same thing, such as making teeth for a dog's head.

“Some kids do a simpler design, while others come up with something more sophisticated, like making them curve.

“It's not just art,” Jurczynski said.

“There is some engineering and math involved in order to make it work, along with an abstract element.”

The entire production costs about $7,200. All but $2,700 has been covered by grants and other funding sources.

Sponsors are hoping the shortfall will be covered by a Kickstarter Campaign, a fundraising tool in which individuals can pledge any amount in support of a project.

The direct address for the campaign has not been determined, but those wishing to pledge can visit www.kickstarter.com and search for Port Townsend to get to the page which Sonandre said will be online by the end of the week.

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 05. 2013 6:10PM
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