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Meredith Holt, Published September 04 2013

Back to ‘Schoolhouse’: Play explores issues still relevant today (WITH VIDEO)

FARGO – Everyone needs someone to believe in them. For Ewart Rokosh, it’s Miss Melita Linton.

Leanna Brodie’s “Schoolhouse,” presented by Tin Roof Theatre Company, follows the young teacher’s struggle to connect with the troubled student and prove to the community that he’s not as dangerous as they think he is.

A child herself fresh out of “normal school” in 1938, she’s got an unruly group of kids in her charge. Ewart’s just her latest challenge.

“The teaching profession is shown through the eyes of this 18-year-old teacher with a sense of nobility,” says the play’s guest director, Charlene Hudgins.

Miss Linton refuses to let the mischief-makers’ pranks or her suitor’s doubts derail her and earnestly tries to prove herself.

But Hudgins says “Schoolhouse” is not a nostalgic look back at a “kinder, gentler time.”

It explores issues that are still relevant 75 years later, like self-esteem and bullying.

Mischief

AnnaMae Buchholtz, 86, and Angie Brady, 87, residents of Moorhead’s Eventide on Eighth, attended one-room schoolhouses of their own, and some of their memories echo themes presented in “Schoolhouse.”

Tin Roof cast members met with Buchholtz, Brady and a couple other residents to get a feel for what it was like to get a schoolhouse education.

Although neither of the women recall much interaction between the older and younger kids at their schools in Rolette County, N.D., and Clay County, Minn., both had troublemakers.

“There were always mischievous ones, playing tricks on other students. I think a few of the older ones tried playing tricks on the teacher, too,” Buchholtz says.

The play shows how ill-equipped teachers were in those days to deal with much more than mischief.

Miss Linton’s teacher friend expresses her sadness and frustration over a student’s medical condition in a letter to her.

“Both of these young teachers are constantly being confronted with things they don’t understand,” director Hudgins says.

Inspiration

But teachers of one-room schoolhouses had their advantages.

Typically, they’d work with the same small group of children for a number of years, which Hudgins says allowed them to give them more individualized attention and instruction.

“Today, you have a teacher for a year and then you move on,” she says.

Buchholtz and Brady speak fondly of their teachers and what they learned from them.

“Of all the teachers I ever had in my whole life, the best one was at that little country school,” Brady says.

Her seventh- and eighth-grade teacher inspired her like Miss Linton tries to inspire her students.

“She made you know you could do anything you wanted to do in life,” she says.

Brady’s school, in Clay County’s Tansem Township, burned down.

She later painted the school from memory. She keeps the painting above her desk to remind her of where she came from and what’s important.

“Your values and your thoughts and your dreams extended out of the one-room country school,” she says. “I’m sure AnnaMae would think that, too.”

Buchholtz agrees.

Hudgins says at its heart, “Schoolhouse” is serious and moving, but it’s interspersed with comedy.

And Tin Roof’s cast of 19 is ready to bring it to life starting tomorrow night.

“It has universal appeal. I don’t think you have to be an educator or student to find this story interesting,” she says.

If you go

What: Tin Roof Theatre Company’s production of “Schoolhouse” by Leanna Brodie

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12-14, 2 p.m. Sept. 15

Where: The Stage at Island Park, 333 4th St. S., Fargo

Info: Tickets cost $15, $10 for students and seniors, and can be reserved by calling the box office at (701) 235-6778 or by visiting www.thestageatislandpark.org.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590