senior play

Cast members rehearse a scene from "The Last Day of School." The Ottumwa High School production is directed and cast entirely by seniors. Co-directors Megan Leonard and David Halvorsen hope a senior production becomes a new tradition for the school. "Our stage managers are underclassmen so we can train them," Leondard said.

OTTUMWA — Friday night will be a bittersweet moment for several Ottumwa seniors.

Members of the senior class will be producing “The Last Day of School” at 7 p.m. in the Ottumwa High School auditorium.

“We were reading scripts and liked this one, and it was like, ‘This is perfect,’” said Megan Leonard, co-director for the senior production.

It’s a first for the school. The play is directed and entirely cast by seniors.

“Last year, our senior class mentioned doing a senior show, and it never happened,” Leonard said. “David and I wanted to make sure it happened.”

So Leonard and co-director David Halvorsen asked if they could direct a proudction and got permission. Rehearsals began April 1.

Halvorsen said the play is a type of anthology. It begins with a girl who is fed up with the daily high school routine and “retaliates,” he said. “It gives everybody else the initiative to do something they wouldn’t normally do.”

Each scene is it’s own story, the directors said. “Except Bethany. She carries the story,” said Leonard.

Halvorsen related it to a rom-com. “You see people falling in love, breaking up, etc.,” he said.

Despite a cast of 13 seniors, the directors did have concerns going into production.

“We thought it would be our regular theater people. We didn’t even know if we would have enough to cast it,” said Leonard.

“We wanted to open this up to people who had never done it before and give them that experience,” said Halvorsen.

“We had a really good response,” Leonard agreed. “We have several people who have never done theater before.”

Leonard and Halvorsen hope that having “new blood” in the production helps open the doors up to new members in future years. They both said they had heard classmates say they would like to try it but were worried about being labeled a “theater or drama geek.”

“We’re trying to break down those barriers,” Leonard said.

“There’s a lot of really good first-timers,” added Halvorsen. “We wish they would have been with our troupe all four years.”

Getting the show put together has had some other challenges as well. Halvorsen was a member of the tennis team, which meant that he had to miss several rehearsals.

Wednesday afternoon, the cast was rehearsing without its set. Risers were on the stage instead for Thursday night’s pops concert.

And, the new role of director was a challenge for the duo. “Directing is harder than I thought, especially with everything going on this week for the seniors,” Leonard said.

“I would definitely describe this as bittersweet,” said Halvorsen.

Their hope is to lay a foundation for future theater programs. A freewill offering will be collected to help fund next year’s productions, particularly the fall musical.

And they hope a senior show becomes an OHS tradition.

“We’re trying to lay the foundation for this to be a tradition,” Halvorsen said. “One of our stage managers is a junior wanting to direct a show next year.”

Features Editor Tracy Goldizen can be reached via email at or followed on Twitter @CourierTracy.


Tracy Goldizen is the Courier's magazine editor, leading production of "Ottumwa Life," the award-winning "Business People" and the Courier's other magazine offerings. She began work with the Courier on the copy desk.