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S E C T I O N 2 Community S TO R I E S A B O U T P E O P L E A N D E V E N T S I N T H E C O M M U N I T Y Photo by Ashley Pogue of Portola Valley John Kissel, left, of Menlo Park plays the lead role of Buddy Layman. Matt Waters, right, a math teacher at Woodside Elementary School, plays CC Showers, Buddy’s mentor and friend. On the cover: Jennie Mae, played by Alanna McNaughton of Woodside, and CC Showers wash Buddy’s feet. While Buddy has a gift for divining water, he is deathly afraid of it. C E L E B R AT I N G HOPE AND FAITH Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory observes its 20th anniversary with ‘The Diviners’ Story by Cheryl Goodman-Morris, artistic director, Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory. | Photos by Ashley Pogue of Portola Valley present works of joy, transformation, and hope, this seems a fitting choice for our 20th anniversary celebration. H The back story ope, faith and fate. These are some of the themes of “The Diviners: A Play in Two Acts and Elegies,” being staged by the Portola Valley Theatre Conservatory March 14-23, with a preview on March 13. Since the mission statement of our theater conservatory is to I first saw “The Diviners” 30 years ago and have never forgotten it. The story is so powerful I have wanted to direct it ever since. It has taken a while for the Conservatory to produce the piece, however, because cast- ing is tricky. While the cast is primarily adult, the lead is a 14-year-old boy named Buddy Layman, who is mentally challenged. The actor who plays him must totally be able to track the action on stage even though his character is seemingly oblivious to much of it. The part demands a huge emotional range and carries a heavy line load. It is not easy to find a young actor who can meet these qualifications. I met that young man two years ago when I was introduced to John Kissel of Menlo Park. He was then a 12-year-old student at La Entrada Middle School and had just moved back to the Bay Area from Portland. John had acted in several Oregon Children’s Theater productions and had started taking classes at our Portola Valley Children’s Theatre Conservatory. In many ways John is mature and insightful beyond his years, and in others he is still a kid. It turns out this is a great combination for Buddy. In addition, Matt Waters, a popular math teacher at Woodside Elementary and sought-after Peninsula actor has been cast in the role of CC Showers. CC is Buddy’s mentor and friend. Matt and John have this relationship in life, and their rapport makes for an engaging, touching, winning pair on stage. The play’s synopsis Buddy Layman, a 14-year-old Depression-era Indiana farm boy, has a gift for divining water, a crucial gift for this droughtridden town. But he is also deathly afraid of it, for good reason. Buddy nearly drowned in a river at age 4, and his mother died saving him. Consequently he won’t wash and itches constantly, putting his health in great jeopardy. The whole town is talking about it. Jennie Mae, his sister, and Ferris, his father, love the boy but are at a loss as to how to help him. CC Showers, a disillusioned preacher, shows up looking for a job and develops a warm and healing relationship with Buddy — all revealed in chilling flashback. Haunting and beautiful, this powerful play has echoes of “Our Town” and “Of Mice and Men” but is definitely a fresh piece that moves theatergoers to tears one minute and laughter the next. Long after the curtain lowers, “The Diviners” will have the audience thinking about its poignant story and the deep quesSee ‘THE DIVINERS’, page 27 March 12, 2014 NTheAlmanacOnline.comNThe AlmanacN25

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