Drama students return to stage


By Glenn Battishill - gbattishill@aimmediamidwest.com



Director Jennifer Ruhlen, right, gives directions to eighth graders Josh Callendine, left, and Shivani Tennety, who play the villains in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.,”during a rehearsal Wednesday afternoon at Dempsey Middle School.

Director Jennifer Ruhlen, right, gives directions to eighth graders Josh Callendine, left, and Shivani Tennety, who play the villains in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.,”during a rehearsal Wednesday afternoon at Dempsey Middle School.


Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

Rehearsals are underway at Dempsey Middle School as the cast of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.” gets ready for its November performances.

The cast has been rehearsing for more than a month, and Director Jennifer Ruhlen said she’s looking forward to getting students back on stage, adding she picked “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.” for its scale and large cast.

“We needed something big to come back to,” Ruhlen said. “It’s a big draw, and it’s a lot of fun. The kids needed to have fun. My favorite part has been just getting back into it with the kids. Drama is a unique animal. You get to see some very interesting friendships form, and a lot of these kids haven’t had those connections for so long.”

Ruhlen steps into the director role this year, replacing Pamela Beery, who retired last year. Ruhlen said she used to direct performances at Dempsey, but she stepped back to only a producer after her second child was born. Ruhlen said when Beery retired, she believed “it was time” for Ruhlen to step back into the role.

“It was a natural thing,” Ruhlen said. “Most of our creative team is still here. I’ve had so much fun doing it, just being able to hang with them again.”

Ruhlen said tickets have yet to be made available to the public, but performances will take place Nov. 11-13 at Hayes High School.

The cast said they are looking forward to the show.

“It’s really fun,” said eighth grader Wyatt Kumpf, who plays Caractacus Potts in the show.”I really like Dick Van Dyke, and I’m playing the part he played. There are a lot of really fun songs.”

Kumpf said he was “pretty nervous” when he auditioned, but the nervousness disappeared for the most part after getting back into the habit of rehearsing.

“It’s been super fun,” Kumpf said. “Acting and singing are some of my favorite things. (I like) interacting with other people to create something super entertaining.”

Eighth grader Kinzie Smith, who plays Kumpf’s daughter in the show, said she’s excited for the performances.

“It’s my first time having a big role,” Smith said. “I’m looking forward to costumes and being out there more. Being in the car on the stage will be fun. I’m really excited for it to all come together.”

The villains of the story, the Baron and Baroness Bomburst, are played by eighth graders Josh Callendine and Shivani Tennety, respectively, and the pair said the parts came easy to them.

“The people in this part have to have very good chemistry, and we’ve known each other since we were seven,” Tennety said of her and Callendine’s rapport. “We’ve been best friends since second grade. We know each other super well, and we act off each other really well. I said (when we auditioned), ‘If we get the Baron and Baroness, we can have our own fun.,”

Callendine agreed, adding he enjoys playing off of Tennety and playing a childish character like Baron Bomburst.

“I’m really excited to show everyone what we’ve been doing,” Callendine said. “I want to make people laugh but also make them a little mad, too. (The Baron is) really childish. He can be manipulated and just kind of screams when he doesn’t get what he wants. He’s a child.”

Tennety added she and Callendine have had fun developing their characters.

“My character is super sleazy, kind of a sassy villain and kind of smarter than (the Baron), which isn’t saying much,” Tennety joked. “She’s the brain, and he’s the face of the operation. It’s a classic (case of) ‘women don’t get credit for what they do.’”

Tennety said she’s excited for the performances next month and is enjoying rehearsals.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to make people laugh,” she said. “It’s always a great feeling. It’s been so fun. I don’t think I could have gotten a better experience. It’s different when your best friend is playing beside you.”

For more information about the show, visit dcs.k12.oh.us/domain/242.

Director Jennifer Ruhlen, right, gives directions to eighth graders Josh Callendine, left, and Shivani Tennety, who play the villains in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.,”during a rehearsal Wednesday afternoon at Dempsey Middle School.
https://www.delgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2021/10/web1_DSC_0858.jpgDirector Jennifer Ruhlen, right, gives directions to eighth graders Josh Callendine, left, and Shivani Tennety, who play the villains in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Jr.,”during a rehearsal Wednesday afternoon at Dempsey Middle School. Glenn Battishill | The Gazette

By Glenn Battishill

gbattishill@aimmediamidwest.com

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.