When Bruce D. Orendorf set out to find a challenging, yet appropriate musical for the students at to take on this fall, he couldn’t find one.
So he wrote it.
Orendorf spent his summer turning the young adult novel “Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie” into a . The book—and the play—takes on serious topics. The main character’s younger brother has leukemia, but he’s also dealing with typical 8th-grade drama and crushes. The story is both “moving” and “humor-filled,” Orendorf said.
“I like tackling things that are relevant to the kids,” Orendorf said.
And he doesn’t water down the act of theater just because the students are young. At rehearsals, he treats them like adults, jumping onstage to show them how to convey emotion with body language and helping them get into the motivation behind their characters’ actions.
He said he doesn’t want apathy to creep in, for the people involved to dismiss it as a middle school play – he wants to create a Broadway-quality production the students will never forget.
Orendorf is a professionally trained actor and director who got his own start in theater as a 7th-grade student in a production of "The Prince and the Pauper." He left Chicago’s stages and moved to the area to raise his family more than a decade ago. Orendorf took a job in sales, but never gave up his love for theater. Three years ago, he started helping the district with its theater program. He spends his free time working as an independent contractor with the district now, directing his second production at the middle school. His two children are students there, and his son is taking part in the play.
After finding the book he wanted to adapt, Orendorf reached out to the author, Jordan Sonnenblick, to get the rights. The author agreed, so long as the school supported a charity. After a bit of debate, they came to an agreement—80 percent of the proceeds from the play will go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and 20 percent will go back to the district’s arts program. Orendorf wants to publish the play after the performance and offer it to other schools, with the condition that they maintain that 80-20 split.
Michelle Adamczyk, a fellow parent at the middle school and the producer of the play, said Orendorf gives his all to the production. It’s an intense play, one with a subject matter that touches everyone.
“We have a great responsibility,” she said.
And it’s obvious that the students recognize that. The young teens and preteens playing the main characters said they were honored to be the first to get to perform the play. They viewed it as a chance to give back, to contribute in some small way to the fight against cancer.
Luke Rose, an 8th grader playing one of the main characters, said the money they’re raising plays a role, but that it’s more about “the feeling of hope that we can give to our audience.”
“It’s a really touching story,” he said.
The play will take place this weekend at Brecksville-Broadview Heights Middle School. Check the school's website for details on the performance times.