The fictional Wayside School is an odd place. The architects supposedly designed the school to be a one-story structure with a long hallway and 30 classrooms. Instead, it was built with 30 classrooms stacked on top of each other.
In the children’s play “Sideways Stories from Wayside School” opening this weekend at the Springer Opera House, the audience encounters the quirky students and teachers at the school.
All the classrooms are crazy, said Shelley McMoy, a junior at Central High School, who plays Bebe.
Some of the teachers at the school actually hate children, according to Tori Griggs, a Central High senior who plays Mrs. Gorf.
“She’s a meanie head,” Tori said. “She’s a real meanie. She enjoys messing with the children. She boasts about turning children into apples.”
Her son, Mr. Gorf, is also a teacher, and is a mama’s boy, said Damian Lockhart, a senior at Marion County High School. He’s inherited his mother’s hatred for children.
On the other hand, there’s Mrs. Jewls, played by Columbus High School junior Blake Blackmon.
“She’s happy all the time,” Blake said. “This is definitely a learning experience for her. She loves them (the children) automatically.”
It’s the second time the Springer Opera House’s Children’s Theater has presented this play, based on the books by Louis Sachar, who also wrote “Holes.”
“We did it in 2005,” director Ron Anderson said. “Two different teachers asked me about it, so I thought it must be time to do it again.”
Anderson said some local teachers assign the books to their students to read.
The show is aimed for third-graders, though younger students and even some high school classes are coming to see it, Anderson said.
For the children’s shows, Anderson always chooses plays that feature heroic children.
In this play, he says all the children are heroic and save each other.
As is usually the case with children’s theater productions, there are two casts — the Red Team and the Blue Team. There are so many morning shows conducted for local schools that student actors would miss too many of their own classes if there was only one cast. The cast represents seven area high schools and has two home-schooled students.
“It’s quite diverse,” Anderson said. “The students bond here. It’s a Georgia-Bama kind of show.”
There are five high school seniors, both actors and technical personnel, involved in this play. Most have known each other for seven or eight years, Damian said.
Many of this year’s cast members remember seeing the play five years ago as audience members.
This show has plenty of new additions for those who saw the first production.
Kayla Felton, the Blue Team assistant stage manager, and a senior at Columbus High, said the blocking is different for this show.
Besides, each character is played by a different actor, said Joy Holden, who plays Rondi, and is a freshman at Columbus High.