hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

October 3, 2013

Teachers by day, actors by night

City man and woman shift between classroom and theater stage

By Bruce Amaro

---- — Every morning five days a week, Lauren Sprague and Darrel Keene take their places at the front of their classrooms.

For music teacher Sprague, the work is literally a song. At Golden Hill Elementary School in Haverhill, she teaches music — a requirement of the school’s curriculum.

“I teach them to sing and about rhythm,” Sprague said, explaining the part music plays in these MCAS-driven days.

As a math teacher to eighth-graders at the West Middle School in Andover, Keene delivers his subject’s message with description and embellished with numbers and symbols that complete a mathematical puzzle. It’s a method he has refined with 15 years of teaching, he said.

At their job every day as they teach, Sprague and Keene give a performance of sorts, striving to make their subjects interesting to students.

When their workday ends with the last bell, their performances change, becoming more personal as they take the stage with the Spotlight Playhouse theater.

Starting this week, they will perform the play “Lend Me a Tenor’’ — Oct. 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 13 at 2 p.m. at the Haverhill City Hall auditorium, 4 Summer St.

In its fifth season, the group sees a successful time ahead with a variety of plays — some with music, some with comedy and enough drama to hopefully keep audiences coming back.

Often three nights a week and a weekend day, Sprague and Keene segue from center stage in a classroom to the stage of a theater at 24 Essex St. in the downtown, where they rehearse with the theater group.

Keene, one of the founders of the playhouse, has spent his alternate life in theater.

“I got a part in a high school play when I was 15 and I liked it,” he said.

He joined various theater groups over the years, and acting is what he does when he is not teaching or at home tending to his house. Some people golf, box or jump from airplanes. Keene said he enjoys the camaraderie of the theater and performing.

“After all, that’s what I do all day long,” he said, explaining he has to make math interesting to get some of the tough material across to students.

When he was helping to create the playhouse, he and his cohorts agreed they saw the need in Haverhill for live theater — not simply dinner theater, but staged, live entertainment.

Their rehearsal space at 24 Essex St. does not allow them to hold performances there, but they have performed in various Haverhill venues, including Haverhill High School, Maria’s Restaurant, Trinity Episcopal Church, Riverside Memorial Church and now the City Hall Auditorium.

Positive responses from viewers have encouraged the group to continue its work, Keene said, and the audiences continue to grow.


What: The play “Lend Me a Tenor’’

When: Oct. 4, 5, 11 and 12 at 8 p.m., and Oct. 13 at 2 p.m.

Where: Haverhill City Hall auditorium, 4 Summer St.

Tickets: $15 regular admission, $13 for people over 65 and groups and playhouse members

To reserve tickets: Email tickets@spotlightplayhouse.org

More information: http://spotlightplayhouse.org/tickets.html