Young Cast Meets Challenges Head-On in SHS Drama Club's "The Curious Savage"


The Saline High School Drama Club raised the curtain on its 2023-24 season with its production of the John Patrick comedy “The Curious Savage” which opened in New York in 1950. The Curious Savage was a SHS Drama Club production back in 2008, which was Kristen Glatz’s first year teaching drama in Saline Schools and was the first show that she directed.

When asked about the production, Ms. Glatz said “I am really proud of how hard the kids worked. This is a very young cast, featuring two freshmen on stage for the first time.”

“It is so exciting to see young people take on big parts, unsure of how they would do, or even if they can do the part and then watching them grow through rehearsals and deliver strong performances.”

In the director’s notes in the program, Ms. Glatz writes “I get to help kids tell stories. I get to teach them skills that make them braver, more confident, more ready to face the scary world. I get to be there for moments of triumph and joy. I get to listen to them as they share their worries and fears, to encourage them when they think they can’t do something, and to celebrate when they finally figure out that they can.”

It can always be a challenge when young people are cast in roles that require that they play someone much older than themselves. But this young cast met that challenge head-on and were successful in becoming the characters as cast. They were led by senior Julianna Combs in the lead role of Mrs. Ethel Savage. Savage played a sixty-something-year-old widow who inherited over ten million dollars when her husband passed away. It was her stated intent to establish a memorial fund in order to help ordinary people find their dreams.

She has three stepchildren who are intent on having their stepmother declared incompetent so they can gain access to her fortune. Her stepchildren include Titus, a United States Senator who is played brilliantly by Drew Harrigan, a freshman performing in his first role with the SHS Drama Club. Titus’ younger sister Lily Belle, a self-proclaimed ingenue, is captured perfectly by C.G. Fergus, a senior performing in her first drama club production. Trent Umpstead plays Samuel, the youngest of the Savage children, who is a judge who holds the distinction of having more decisions overturned on appeal than any other judge. Umpstead plays the role of the reserved younger brother very well, as a go-with-the-flow kind of fellow.

Other cast members include Marianna Lemley as Florence, Anna Palacios as Fairy May, Henry Strozeski as Jeffrey Meredith, Kadence Waldrop as Mrs. Paddy, Mickey Williams as Hannibal and William Wilson as Dr. Emmett.

The set included a simple design that enhanced the efforts of the cast. Cast members were able to enter and exit the stage easily while the design resembled a psychiatric facility, plain and simple, exactly what was needed. The set was designed by Catherine “Cat” Wei.

Though The Curious Savage was written decades ago, its themes are still very timely today. The play captures human greed, harshly judging people who are different, people who talk differently or have different ideas are ridiculed or punished. And the play hits the bull's eye on how others sometimes view the elderly.

Combs smartly delivers the line that perfectly captures the underlying meaning of the play when she states she pursues life with a “tenacious mediocrity” and defines for others the true meaning of freedom, namely, “freedom is the right to make the wrong choice,” without fear of retribution, a concept that has seemingly been forgotten today.

The John Patrick play seems to have captured the mood of today, with harsh judgments towards others and a wholesale rejection of anything or anyone different than ourselves. The young cast of SHS delivered the folly of that message in a loud and clear fashion in the Ellen A. Ewing Performing Arts Center on Friday evening.

The Curious Savage will also be presented on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 (cash or check only) and are available at the door. Everyone is encouraged to attend for an evening of great theater.

The Saline High School Drama Club will present its spring musical, Disney’s Beauty and The Beast, March 15-17, 2024. Auditions for Beauty and the Beast will be November 28-30, 2023, from 3-6 p.m.

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