Alumnus directs first play at new local high school

by William Lewandowski

The beauty of history is the ability to recreate it. MSUM and Concordia alumnus Adam Pankow is doing just that at Sheyenne High School in West Fargo as director of the theater department. Just this year, the new Sheyenne High School became an independent high school within the West Fargo Public School system. Now equipped with all four grades, Sheyenne High School is ready to put on their very first solo production.

Pankow was the theater director at West Fargo High School for ten years, but is now focusing his efforts to Sheyenne. Being the first play Sheyenne students are doing on their own, Pankow chose the play, “You Can’t Take It With You.”

“This is a classic piece and is frequently produced in high schools,” Pankow said. “The pedigree of the piece fits; it also gives each student their own opportunities instead of ensemble like roles.”

“You Can’t Take It With You” is a play about a family of collectors and hobbyists. Alice, the daughter of the family, gets engaged and brings her fiancé home for the first time. Her fiancé, though, is the polar opposite of her family. He is a Wall Street man. This creates a sense of comedic conflict with moments of true sincerity as well.

By choosing this play, written in 1937, Sheyenne High School is taking that period of history and recreating it.

“For a play that is nearly 80 years old, it is easy to dismiss it,” he said. “People will be surprised at how charming the play is and how it is still relevant to 2015.”

While this play captures a moment of history, Pankow and his students are also creating their own.

“We get to ‘set the stage’ so to speak,” Pankow said. “We get to set the traditions that will carry on through the following years.The students are taking pride and will remember that they were the firsts.”

According to Pankow, a good number of students turned up for auditions.

“I was very pleased by the turnout among the grades,” he said. “It bodes well for the future of this school.”

Being the first play for Sheyene, making sure that it goes well is always on the agenda.

“[For the students] my expectations are always the same,” Pankow said. “We need to be aware of each other and the art. For the students, every play is an opportunity for more experience and to grow.”

Pankow’s expectations for himself are to find things that challenge him, as well as the students. Since every play is different, each play poses a unique challenge.

This play, a living room show, is an active set where  the cast, of about twenty-one students, can all be seen at one time. Keeping an open, energetic set creates and keeps moments throughout the play fresh for the audience and for the cast.

“This play is a fast and funny piece of theater,” Pankow said. “I hope to capture the audience and to maintain the enjoyable, well-structured pace of this piece.”

Whether it is attending “You Can’t Take It With You,” or the numerous other events in the area, Pankow encourages all types of people to take the time to experience art.

“A person who takes a chance on art, whether it be going to the FargoDome or going somewhere in downtown Fargo, is going to be a well-rounded person.”

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