Caesar Rodney senior penning historical play

Audree Wells, left, a senior at Caesar Rodney High School, is writing a play about women’s suffrage for a First State Heritage Park program in April. A veteran of the school’s theater program, she is shown playing one of the nuns in a production of the musical “The Sound of Music.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

CAMDEN — It’s not every day that one brings history to life. But in the spring, when Caesar Rodney High School senior Audree Wells’ production goes up at First State Heritage Park, she’ll be doing just that.

“I’m excited to see people that I’ve written about,” Audree said last week at the high school. “It’s going to be exciting to see them perform and seeing all the events that I’ve read about on stage.”

Her production is the inaugural co-op between the high school and First State Heritage Park. For two periods a day, she leaves school for Rose Cottage in Dover, where she works in the library researching the women’s suffrage movement in Delaware. With her research, she is penning the script for a production that will have a cast of six to eight in April.

“I’m just really interested in women’s rights. In AP U.S. history I had to do an essay, and I picked the women’s rights movement and the causes of that. So I just have had this interest in it and I decided to focus it on Delaware,” she said.

“There was actually a lot, which was pretty cool.”

The co-op combines Audree’s interest in history, as well as her involvement in theater. She has been a part of every production for the last four years, and was initially drawn to this program because it combined those two passions.

“At school, it’s mostly acting,” she said. “This is more of like the behind the scenes stuff because I’m doing research and writing a script.”

For John Muller, director of school’s theater program, that was the element that he felt wasn’t there in his curriculum.

“I felt like even though we do talk about why the playwright writes a play and what the history and the culture was at the time the play was written, that there just was a piece missing,” Mr. Muller said.

“And I feel like that’s the piece. I think that that is an opportunity for her, and other students in the future, to get to see that piece where we may not have time during the school year to get to all of that in-depth the way she is.”

The school has already been working with First State Heritage Park for about six years. The park puts on a theatrical reenactment on First Saturdays, and the high school is involved in the First Saturday program in October.

To prepare, employees of the park come into Mr. Muller’s class two days a week and go over the historical context of the production — types of fashion, how to speak, how to walk — and learn to do what First State Heritage Park does.

The program that Ms. Wells is now taking part in stemmed organically from that.

While debriefing from a First Saturday performance, Mr. Muller said that he didn’t feel like the students understood that “this is a job they could get in their own community.”

“A lot of my kids, because they get into theater, they think, ‘Oh, I’m going to go to New York City and be the next Broadway star’ which for some of them, they will,” he said. “But for a lot of them, they don’t realize that, if that’s not something they want to do or if they don’t make it, that the could come back and do theater in their community and still get paid for it.”

Over the course of a year, Mr. Muller and First State Heritage Park developed a curriculum for a program like this.

“I couldn’t have picked a better student to do this. I’m super, super proud of her and all of the work that she’s done over the past four years and what’s to come,” he said.

“I can’t wait to see the First State Heritage Park [production] because she’s the type of kid that when she wants to do something, she’s going to do it. She’s going to make it happen. So I’m super proud of her and very excited about everything that she’s doing.”

The process — while combining two subjects Ms. Wells cares about — has also taught her that there’s a place for her in theater even if she doesn’t want to pursue acting after high school.

“It’s definitely shown me even though maybe it’s not acting exactly, I can use theater in other career fields,” she said.

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