Eastlake play takes on ‘risky’ topics for high school

November 17, 2011

By Christopher Huber

Playing such a depressing and serious role in his first lead part in a play doesn’t seem to bother Daniel Kowalski, an Eastlake High School junior.

In fact, he appreciates the responsibility that comes with the task of portraying a bullied teen driven to commit mass murder at school.

“There’s really a lot of hate when you play this role. It’s different,” he said during rehearsal Nov. 8. “I didn’t realize how much responsibility went into getting this character.”

The cast for Eastlake's production of "Hello, Herman" stages a scene during rehearsal Nov. 8. Photo by Christopher Huber

Kowalski and fellow Eastlake actor, senior James Litvak, play the leads in the school’s up coming play, “Hello, Herman.” The show is at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 17-19 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Eastlake High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets cost $7 for students and seniors and $10 for adults.

Litvak plays Lax Morales, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who is looking for his next big story. His video blog has been written off as Internet trash by the publishing elite despite its unprecedented following among teens. He finds that big story in Herman Howards, a 16-year-old suburban Iowa boy who is now in prison after killing 39 students and three teachers at his school. Herman sends Lax video clips of his shooting spree that he captured himself, with a note asking to tell his story.

Coming face-to-face with the killer challenges Lax to use every tool he knows to get Herman to answer the elusive question: Why? Over three days, Lax learns what makes Herman tick while the state pushes for Herman’s televised execution. Viewers will get a sense of context surrounding the issues with stories from each character’s back-story.

The play examines why tragic events like Columbine and Virginia Tech happen and hints at, in Herman’s case, a desire for fame and attention.

Rachelle Horner, an Eastlake teacher and the production’s director, highlighted the serious tone “Hello, Herman” takes in centering on the issue of bullying and a teen’s violent, retaliatory reaction. Some Sammamish schools have recently thrown more time and resources at combating the issue with programs like Rachel’s Challenge, which came out of the Columbine shooting, as well as events to raise awareness and promote getting along with peers.

“I chose this one mostly because as a teacher … you talk about (bullying). But do our kids get calloused by it?” Horner said.

And although plays like “Hello, Herman” can be risky to show on a high school stage, Horner said the Eastlake administration thought it would be a good way to bring the issue to light in a completely new format.

“They really supported me doing this,” she said.

The play deals with evil, fame and how far someone will go to get attention. As Lax interviews Herman, they consider God, a haunting past, what motivates someone to kill, and other moral dilemmas. And they might not sufficiently resolve those questions for the audience.

“It’s such a heavy show,” said Horner. “It doesn’t try and answer it for you.”

Despite being such a dark play, Kowalski said the cast has made it fun to work on.

“It’s still possible to have fun with it,” he said. “If we didn’t, it would be a lot more depressing.”

Reporter Christopher Huber can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com.

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One Response to “Eastlake play takes on ‘risky’ topics for high school”

  1. James Litvak on November 17th, 2011 7:56 pm

    I wish the cast a good luck! I am not THE James Litvak, just another one who happened to find this article via a Google alert. Interestingly enough, I used to be an actor in high school productions as well. Go Eastlake High!! Break a leg, y’all!

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