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Day: March 17, 2014

MHS actors will take you to Almost, Maine

Cody Bond and Emma LeDuc in a scene from "Almost, Maine."
Cory Bond and Emma LeDuc in a scene from “Almost, Maine.”

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Who do you call to heal a broken heart? Is it possible to recapture lost love? Do opposites actually attract? What happens when any of those scenarios play out?

Those are a few of the questions pondered in Almost, Maine. The McNary High School drama department is staging a three-night production of the award-winning play March 20-22. Curtain time is 7 p.m. each night. Tickets are $5 at the door.

The play is a series of vignettes connected by the theme of love and all the joy and ache it bestows upon those who fall in. Each of the students who landed roles in the production is taking on two separate characters in different vignettes.

Senior Maddie Valish was first exposed to the play when she went to see a production at West Salem High School.

“I fell in love with it. When it was announced we would be doing it, I wanted to be involved,” Valish said.

In one vignette, Valish plays Gayle, a long-term girlfriend who begins to wonder if her lengthy courtship will ever be anything more. She makes a 180-degree turn for the second part.

“I play Hope, who is going to respond to a marriage proposal that she didn’t answer years before,” Valish said.

In one of the more gut-wrenching scenes, Where It Went, Emma LeDuc plays Marci and Nick Neddo plays Phil, a couple trying to figure out if their marriage can be saved.

“We love each other, but things are starting to fall apart. They’re trying to fix things, but it’s just not working,” Neddo said.

Even during rehearsals, the vignette has caused strong reactions.

“Our stage manager has bawled after it,” LeDuc said. “Everything you will go through or have been through is in this play.”

The play also plucks a deep chord for Cole Juran who confessed to tearing up at different points during the run up to opening night.

“It’s got so much heart in it showing all the different aspects of being in a relationship and being in love,” Juran said. “The heartbreak scenes hit hard.”

Juran’s roles include that of Dave in Seeing the Thing. He falls for tough girl Rhonda, played by Courtney Gregoire, and may have made a mistake in painting something for her to show his affection.

Gregoire, who transferred from Amity High School, said the play is more than a little reminiscent of her hometown.

“The characters just sound real, they’re a lot more like Amity than Keizer. They take their time and get to know each other. I love that we get to do that in this play,” Gregoire said.

In the exploration of its theme, the play offers a boatload of laughs in addition to its moments of sweetness and pain. That’s what drew Cory Bond to his roles.

In one of them, Bond plays Jimmy who crosses paths with a now-engaged ex, Sandrine, played by LeDuc.

“I’m kind of like sad sack. I’ve given up on love,” Bond said. “But, in the next one, I’m the best friend of another guy and we talk about how bad our dating lives are.”

Throughout it all, the play dabbles in the absurdist and magical realism. An actual heart might be mended onstage. Other characters might carry around bags of love.

“There’s a lot of literal use of language,” Juran said.

While the script lends itself to romantic comedy, Valish said there’s truly something in it for everyone.

“I feel like guys will fall in love with it, too. There are some funny parts that anyone will appreciate. It’ll pull you in,” she said.

Softball team preps for more even keeled season

McNary’s Madison Oliver covers first base in practice drills Friday, March 7. The Lady Celts made it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament last year and lost only two players to graduation. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
McNary’s Madison Oliver covers first base in practice drills Friday, March 7. The Lady Celts made it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament last year and lost only two players to graduation. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School varsity softball team had a roller coaster 2013 season.

After a blistering start that had the team in second place in the Central Valley Conference, the team hit a losing skid that dropped them to fourth. They peaked again at the end of the season to make it to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, but the 4-3 loss that ousted them from the tournament still stings.

“For all of us, the last game was a heartbreaker. It was good that we got so far despite being young, but it lingered over us. We want to erase that and go farther,” said Kevin Wise, McNary head coach in his second year as the program’s leading man.

The varsity roster will include a number of new faces, but Wise felt the team was stronger in almost all areas.

“From one to nine, I think we’re stronger on offense than we were last year,” he said. “We had to move some people around to fill in the gaps our seniors left, but I think it might even make us stronger defensively.”

The program graduated two players last June, Jordyn Hanson on the mound and Paige Bouska at shortstop. Megan Ulrey, who’s seen a fair amount of time pitching since her freshman year, will step into the circle. Madison Oliver will be her relief.  Kimi Ito will take over Bouska’s role at shortstop.

“In the short term, we still have some players who are learning their positions. Looking further ahead, we just need to be more consistent than last year,” Wise said.

The Lady Celts will field only two seniors again this season, Dani Saunders and Sarah Jensen.

Saunders, who plays third base, said last year’s team was able to make its comeback with an attitude of “calm ferocity,” and she thinks this year won’t be much different.

“We have certain rituals that we did last year, and we’ll be introducing them to the new people. We just have to focus on what we need to do,” Saunders said.

Junior slugger and catcher Kiana Villareal said she’ll be passing along the advice she got as a freshman.

“They always told me to outplay the other person in the same position on the other team. That helped me a lot when I was still figuring it out,” she said.

One of Wise’s goals for the team this season is leaving fewer runners on base, a problem led to the Lady Celts’ midseason slump last year.

“We’ve got to be consistent and fight back. We have to push a little harder when we get into those situations,” Wise said.

The girls’ first home game of the season, vs. Roseburg High School, is Thursday, March 20.

Parks board funding varies

KEIZERTIMES/File photo
KEIZERTIMES/File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

There was $20,000 to start.

That figure was cut to $10,000, causing some disappointment Tuesday night.

By the end, the figure had risen to $33,000 so all was good again.

Last month, members of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board discussed what to do with the approximately $20,000 they would have to spend for the upcoming fiscal year. The decision was made to use the funds as matching grant money, in essence doubling the money by partnering with community projects in need of more funding.

That changed during Tuesday’s meeting as Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, presented the proposed overall parks budget for next year. With $7,400 being spent on fall protection – wood chips – in several parks, plus another $3,500 to match Keizer Rotary for park benches, the amount dropped to about $10,000.

“I’m comfortable that there is $10,000 available for the grant program,” Lawyer said. “If your pilot program is not successful, the funding can be used for something else.”

A couple of board members expressed concern about the drop.

“So for the pilot grant program it’s $10,000, not $20,000?” board member Roland Herrera asked.

Lawyer felt that was a safe bet.

“I’m comfortable with it being at $10,000,” Lawyer said. “I don’t see it going down.”

Board chair Brandon Smith wasn’t as comfortable.

“That’s disappointing that it’s not $20,000,” Smith said.

Smith expressed more disappointment later.

“I didn’t realize the $3,500 for the Rotary match comes from our $20,000,” he said. “Part of the idea with the matching grant is leveraging our money. I think we can more than double the value. There was no discussion of the $3,500. I wasn’t expecting that to come out of the $20,000. It’s unacceptable to cut this from $20,000 to $10,000 when we didn’t even get started with the program. The $20,000 was going to be a small amount. You’re cutting us off at the knees by cutting it down to $10,000.

“The reason this is unacceptable is the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association discussed having a special work session (next Thursday) to talk about this because they are so excited about the grant program. It will be a workshop to prioritize projects. They want to plan to best utilize the money. I don’t know if other groups already have things in mind because of this.”

Herrera, who will help lead that meeting, shared Smith’s view.

“When I first heard this (grant program), I thought it’s great. I thought the money would go fast. The $20,000 is not much but it’s a start. It gives incentive for someone to get going. The $10,000 is also a start, but it’s not going to be very much. I would still make the pitch for $20,000. In the long run it will benefit everybody. We were kind of excited about that.”

After hearing of additional parks revenue coming in, board member Richard Walsh made a motion to bump the grant program back up to $20,000. The motion was approved unanimously.

Later, Lawyer mentioned a difference between what was in his budget and what he expected to spend. Smith jumped on that and made a motion to bolster the grant program funding to $33,000. That motion was approved unanimously.

“We thought we would have $20,000, then we got punched in the gut down to $10,000,” Smith said. “Now hopefully we’ll walk out with $33,000.”

Meanwhile, Walsh continued his longstanding push for an additional parks system full-time worker. After Lawyer said the total cost for such an employee would be $60,000 to $65,000, Walsh extolled the virtues of such a person.

“My idea is there is such a backlog of maintenance at all parks,” Walsh said. “Ivy is growing on trees and we don’t have the ability to do anything. We need work done on parks before they deteriorate.”

Lawyer agreed having a new full-time person would be a “big, big help.”

“Parks are still tremendously underfunded compared to other cities,” Walsh said. “We didn’t water some park acreage last year because then it would be green and we would have to mow it. We can’t deliver a service to the citizens. We can deliver more acreage with an extra person out there.”

A motion to add a full-time parks person was approved.

Walsh acknowledged afterwards the action still has to be approved by the Keizer Budget Committee and then the Keizer City Council.

“I’m optimistic if the money is available, this should be one of the highest priorities,” Walsh said. “There’s a great need in the parks system.”