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By Nancy Tullis

Friday, February 27, 2004

'Dead Center Stage,' a murder-mystery spoof, was written and directed by three seniors.
S THE CENTERPIECE OF "DEAD CEN-ter Stage," Columbiana High School freshman Max Cleburn has been tripped over, stepped on, tickled and poked. But he doesn't mind.
"Dead Center Stage" is a murder-mystery spoof written, directed and performed by Columbiana High School students. Performances are set for 7 p.m. March 5, 6, 12 and 13 in the high school auditorium. Tickets are $5 for adults, $3 for students.
Spending much of the time "dead center stage" under a sheet, Max takes the ribbing in stride. "I was born for the role. It's fun," Max said, pointing out a masking tape X in the center of the stage floor. "That's my spot."
The plot
The play is a spoof of the classic whodunits. A party at a millionaire's mansion goes awry when the millionaire is murdered, leaving the guests to discover who among them is responsible before the killer strikes again.
Max's character is a magazine publisher who invites a group of celebrities to a party at his mansion. The play opens with him fighting with his wife, and later he is murdered in plain view of oblivious party guests.
Among the guests are a saucy investigative reporter, a pill-popping author, a senator about to be ruined by a scandal, a clueless detective, a nearly forgotten actress desperate for a script; and a rock star who refuses to tour.
Max invites guests to a masquerade party, but the guests arrive sans costume. As the plot unfolds, however, it quickly becomes apparent that they all have plenty to hide as a series of flashback scenes show each guest has a motive for murder.
The creators
Seniors Dara Levendosky, Amanda Bonsall and Brittany Sanders came up with the idea for the play last year and spent the summer writing it. They are co-creators, co-directors and actors.
"There's still a lot of work to do, but we'll pull it all together," said cast member Jordan Posey. "We are all friends, and this is our play. We each have our own stake in it."
Jodi Taylor, who teaches high school science and has coached volleyball, volunteered to serve as adviser.
Taylor is also the adviser for Teen Institute, a peer support group, and most of the cast members also belong to that group.
"These are all good kids," she said. "I've never done anything like this before, but the girls worked hard on the script and I didn't want to see them denied an opportunity to stage it."
Taylor said the students are working hard to make the play a success. She pointed out sophomore Bethany Davis as an example of the cast's teamwork. "She's an understudy, and she's been great. She has done anything we've asked the entire time."
A 'hectic' experience
The directors and cast members said the experience of acting, directing and producing a play, as well as planning costumes, sets and publicity as "hectic" and "crazy." They said it's a challenge to fit all the work in with studies and other school and family obligations.
"Doing our own play is a good experience," said cast and crew member Amber Streets. "Kids have a lot of imagination, so the play is imaginative and fun."
Cast and crew began rehearsals in January, then lost a week when snow and ice canceled classes.
They recently had to replace a cast member who missed too many rehearsals.
"It's a lot of work, but we're excited," Dara said. "We've been working on this a long time and we just want to see it staged."
Other cast members are Angie Wilms, David Spatholt, Chris McIntyre, Greg Sell, Chelsie Giambrone and Caitlyn Kimble.