This year, Kaneland School District’s motto is “Proud to be a Knight.” It’s a motto to elicit pride and tradition and to focus on the amazing things that happen within our school district and ultimately out in the Kaneland Community and among the Kaneland Nation of faculty, staff, and students. The Kaneland Arts Initiative has much Kaneland Pride as we have cast, crew members, volunteers, and community members participating in our many events. We truly are a Kaneland tradition, 17 years strong, that evokes the idea of coming together to celebrate our appreciation of artistry and the Arts.
This weekend, KAI is pleased to produce the World Premiere performances of Memorial Park, a play written by 2001 Kaneland graduate, Nic Wehrwein. The play is about an unlikely relationship between Mars, a 13 year old boy, and Fiddley Diddley, a drifter clown, that brings to the surface many past and current struggles with domestic and substance abuse. The message is simple: one’s future is not dictated by one’s past and is written beautifully through the relationship between Mars and Fiddley Diddley and supported by the other roles in the play.
I am excited that KAI is able to produce this profound play that is both light at times and serious, but what is also exciting is the author itself, Nic Wehrwein. Nic was briefly my student as he was a member of the Kaneland band program, back when there was only about 30 kids in the program and yours truly was the director. He was a great kid – a guitar player in my jazz band and percussionist in my concert band – but not the “teacher’s pet” kind. He was the student with the ironic sense of humor and quick wit that reminded me that high school students are “changlings,” stuck somewhere between adulthood and adolescence. He and his classmates possessed a mature outlook on life, yet embraced it all the same with joy and laughter, but also with seriousness and calm.
When he was cast as the role of Audrey, the Venus flytrap with a taste for blood in KHS’ spring production of Little Shop of Horrors, I knew he would be outstanding. I had the pleasure of conducting him, rather conducting AT him, as he was backstage watching me on a screen, while he waited for me to cue the camera so he could sing his part from backstage. The first time the audience saw him was his curtain call. I remember being very impressed with his ability to be patient, yet accurate with the tone and inflection of his part. He was a natural.
Here we are on the eve of opening night of his performance and I am just as impressed with this Kaneland Knight as I was back in 2001. Nic has written a great piece with an honest message that exercises my mind and my emotions with each rehearsal I see. I am in awe of his ability to write real characters who come to life under Diane McFarlin’s always outstanding direction of an amazing and talented cast.
When we hear the phrase, “Proud to be a Knight,” it’s hard not to think of feats of athletic prowess and skill, but this weekend, our pride will be on the stage through the words of Nic Wehrwein. I hope you’ll share this experience with us.
Proud to be a Knight,
Maria Y. Dripps-Paulson