Scene from Crazytown
Evangeleyne Mahler gets questioned by detectives Shaynne Barton and Jack Billings in a scene from “Crazytown,” which runs Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday at 7 p.m., and Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

On stage during a dress rehearsal on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for a four-performance run of “Crazytown,” a student actor struggling with lines calls across the auditorium to the director to ask if she can take a look at the script.

On the receiving end of the question is senior Reese Grube, not an adult adviser or the performing arts director. This year’s spring play is a 100% student-run performance.

PHS senior Reese Grube tests a microphone prior to a dress rehearsal on Tuesday. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“Because our performing arts director does like everything and it just ended up being too much, I said I can take it on,” Grube said. “And that’s kind of how it started … it snowballed from there.”

The play runs Thursday through Saturday with 7 p.m. performances. There will also be a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday. Admission is $5 but free for students.

“Crazytime,” written by Jonathan Rand, is described on the author’s website as a comedy about “the most messed up town in America, from the police interrogation room where the nicest guy in town is issued a strange ultimatum, to the elementary school for a heated political debate on critical issues like tater tots.”

The flexibility of the “Crazytown” script — written by Jonathan Rand — worked well for the students.

“That’s what we needed … we can’t put on the ‘Lion King,’ we can’t put on a big Shakespeare show,” Grube said, “but we can put on something small and something fun, so that’s what we picked.”

So everything from auditions to the tech booth work to the set design and everything in between was organized by students. Grube said production has been preparing for this week for two months.

“It was a pretty quick turnaround for a show,” she said. “If it was a musical, it would be way longer (to prepare). For this one, we just auditioned for like a week and then a couple of weeks later, we started rehearsing.”

With scheduling conflicts for time in the auditorium, the students had been rehearsing in the library.

“We finally got on stage about a week before spring break,” Grube said. “That’s when we ran the show for the first time.”

Putting together the play has been a challenging process, including needing to cut a part and replacing those that have dropped out with reliable replacements.

“Things have been moving and shaking — it’s been interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes,” Grube said. “Being an actor is way different than being a director.”

Robotics students even became involved with the play by building a machine that appears on stage in one scene.

Keira Guzman breaks out in song during this scene: ‘I am the champion, my friend. And you’ll keep on losing till the end.’ (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“Immediately as soon as I read the script, I knew I wanted to do something with robotics because I have friends in robotics and they just finished their competitions, so they were looking for something to do,” Grube said.

Called the “Apocalypse Machine” for the play, it has a built-in Arduino computer, pneumatics, LEDs and a spinning red light. The robotics students built an Android app so the machine can be controlled via Bluetooth from off stage.

Marissa Zeller acts during a scene from “Crazytown.” (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

“I told them, ‘all we really need is something that looks crazy’ and so just go crazy,” Grube said. “So we have some blinking lights, we have wires moving up and down, wailing sirens, it’s really fun.”

Grube has enjoyed being involved with plays since her middle school years, although playing soccer prevented her from participating in fall musicals and COVID has created havoc over the past two years. Grube was in the tech booth for last year’s “Nunsense” production.

“Just being around it makes me really happy and so I knew I wanted to do something for my senior year,” she said.

Grube is confident about everyone being prepared for this week’s shows.

“I think it’s looking really nice … we’re putting the final touches on everything like the costumes and prop pieces,” Grube said. “Some people say that if your rehearsal the night before your opening night is bad, then you know that your opening is going to be good. So I’m not too worried about it.”

Brad Fuqua, Philomath News

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.