In just a few short weeks, the Canby High School thespians will bring a beloved holiday story to life, just in time for Christmas.
The tale is The Cinnamon Bear, an old-time radio program that debuted on the airwaves in 1937. And, true to both the story’s original medium and the coronavirus era, CHS drama students will be presenting their show not on the stage — but a Zoom line near you.
“We really wanted to do something before the end of the year,” explained Craig Holbrook, who was hired as the high school’s drama teacher and theater director just a few weeks ago. “And the easiest thing to do in the short amount of time that we have was a radio show, where we could record it via Zoom, script in hand.”
The Zoom format eliminates the need for the show’s cast of 14 high school actors to memorize their lines before opening night — which is barely two weeks away.
“We’ve got some really talented kids and they’re raring to go,” Holbrook said. “They’ve been without for a while now and it’s been a shame, but I’m jumping in and I’m really excited to work with these guys.”
Although many students who have been involved in drama in recent years were excited to see Holbrook “getting the band back together,” as it were, he admitted that not as many turned out for auditions as he would have expected.
He believes there are two reasons for this. First, and not surprisingly, not many teens are overly enthused about doing material that was originally conceived to appeal to young children.
The second and perhaps even more significant factor is something that many of us have been dealing with during the telework era: Zoom fatigue.
“There’s a core group that has really maintained that connection,” Holbrook said. “Then there are the peripherals that are interested, but it’s difficult because you’re not hanging out in the green room, and you’re not seeing each other every day. You do lose that sense of community a little bit.”
Though the original Cinnamon Bear show was created to air in short episodes broadcast almost daily over a period of four to five weeks (spanning from Thanksgiving to Christmas), Holbrook said the high school will be presented a very abbreviated version.
“They condense it quite a bit,” Holbrook assured. “We’re not going to be, you know, three hours long.” (Thank goodness — talk about Zoom fatigue!)
The Cinnamon Bear tells the story of a brother and sister who journey through a magic land to find the silver star meant to top their Christmas tree, aided by such characters as Paddy O’Cinnamon, an Irish-accented teddy bear, the Crazy Quilt Dragon, Oliver Ostrich and even Santa himself.
The story has become a particular favorite in the Pacific Northwest, especially Portland, which has the reputation of being a “Cinnamon Bear hotspot.”
The Canby High School Thespians’ presentation of the holiday classic will be broadcast via YouTube at the following links:
Dec. 18, 7 p.m.: https://youtu.be/U4G7UR4Eedw
Dec. 19, 7 p.m.: https://youtu.be/SGUoOFCCBwQ
Holbrook plans to flip the drama club’s usual schedule for the new year. Whereas the Thespians typically produce a large musical in the winter and a series of one-act plays in the spring, 2021 will feature the reverse.
Holbrook is hopeful that improved interventions for fighting the coronavirus, including a vaccine, might allow for some gathering to take place by springtime, at least enough to rehearse and stage a production — even if the audience will still be virtual.