Hanford High drama will bring a good old-fashioned Western to its stage when it presents the melodrama, Deadwood Dan.
Now, a Western-themed musical isn't that strange in this neck of the woods. What is unusual are three foreign exchange students, all seniors, making their theatrical debut on an American stage.
Plamena Solakova from Bulgaria is portraying a racy dancing girl in the play.
Mascha Klawitter from Germany is a miner, and Laura Hamalaemen from Finland is a chorus girl.
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The gist of the musical follows the plight of a few valiant heroes who try to thwart the sinister plans of a conniving villain. Much of the action takes place in Mantrap Saloon run by the notorious Calamity Jane.
For the foreign exchange students, experiencing high-caliber high school theater is a dream come true, they said. And, that their first play is a Western makes it all the better, the girls added.
"It's just like the American movies we watch at home, so exciting," Mascha said. "And the theater department here is so different than what I'm used to in Germany. We get real costumes. How wonderful is that?"
Plamena and Mascha have been involved with their high school's drama department for a few years, but Laura is a novice to acting.
"It's really quite amazing," she said. "I'm really enjoying myself, and the music is as much fun as the people."
Plamena has loved drama for several years, she said. She even established her own drama club that is part of the activities sponsored by the Bulgarian Youth Red Cross.The toughest part of turning out for Deadwood Dan were the auditions, Mascha said.
"My English wasn't that good when auditions were held so I stumbled a lot trying to read a line in the script in 10 seconds," she said. "But my English got better and I got used to the (pace) so now it's much easier."
Plamena loves her dancing girl role because Deadwood Dan director Deb Donahoe encouraged her to add her own technique to the character.
Sherry Teachout, co-director of the musical, had high praise for the European newcomers.
"These girls are adapting so fast. They're doing such a wonderful job in their roles," Teachout said. "Mascha makes up in body language what she doesn't have in spoken lines. And, once Deb gave Plamena the go-ahead to improvise her dancing girl role she's done an amazing job.
"Laura is definitely the most quiet of the three, but she has a beautiful voice and she does anything we ask her to do despite her shyness."
◗ Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org