Richland High drama students will get a taste of professional theater this year when Beth St. James steps in as guest director of the school's first play of the school year -- The Curious Savage.
"I've been wanting to invite a guest director to our theater program for quite some time, but it didn't work with the school's schedule and the guest director's schedule until this year," said Ellicia Elliott, Richland High's drama director.
"I feel it's very important that my students learn how to work with different kinds of directors, as they will need to know how to do that in college and beyond."
St. James recently moved to the Tri-Cities from New York City after she married Jeremiah St. James, who owns and operates the Christian radio station Zion FM in Richland.
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"I started acting in the theater when I was 7 years old," Beth St. James said. "My grandfather was a well-known director in the theater community in Torrington, Conn., therefore my foot was already in the door before I even started."
At age 21, she moved to New York to pursue acting.
"I move to NYC with nothing but $800 in my pocket, found a crummy apartment in Harlem, an even crummier job, and started saving money so I (could) attend the New York Film Academy," St. James said.
She earned that money for the Academy in 2009, then went on to work on several TV pilots, indie films and reality shows. Her latest big screen work was in Wes Craven's film, My Soul to Take in 3D. She also appeared in two episodes of the popular TV show Rescue Me before getting married and moving to the Tri-Cities earlier this year.
When St. James was introduced to Elliott at church one Sunday, the two formed an instant connection, which led to Elliott asking St. James to be a guest director.
"It is my dream to work in theater and film," St. James said. "She was basically offering me my dreams on a silver platter in a town I never thought I'd have that opportunity in. How could I pass up an offer like that?"
Curious Savage is about a woman (Mrs. Savage played by Bridgid Abrams) whose husband dies and leaves her close to $10 million. When she decides to donate the money to charity rather than to her greedy stepkids, they send her to a nut house.
But Mrs. Savage is one cool cookie through it all. She befriends all the residents in the sanitarium much to the dismay of her stepchildren. What happens is something the audience must see for themselves.
The rest of the cast includes Ethan Dodd as Hannibal, Hannah Ashby as Fairy May, Grayson Stamps as Jeffery, Connie Lovelace as Mrs. Paddy, Garrett Lamothe as Titus, Connor Kreutz as Samuel, Amber Buchanan as Lily Belle, Camry Balero as Florence, Sarah Etherington as Miss Willie and Taylor Passey as Dr. Emmett.
"I have told this cast several times that they are the best group I have ever worked with and I truly mean that," St. James said. "These young adults really do care about their craft, and they are open to learning new techniques.
"I have all the faith in the world the play will be a success because every one of them has put in 100 percent effort. I am thrilled and overjoyed to have the privilege of working with them."
Curtain time is 7:30 p.m. Oct. 28-30, with a 2 p.m. matinee Oct. 30. Admission is $8 adults, $6 students and senior citizens. Tickets available at the door.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org