Farmington High School presents 'The Orphan Train'
For years, Farmington High School teacher Beth Breiland found comedies for the annual fall play. This year, the fall play was moved to the spring play, and Breiland decided to try something different -- a drama.
The drama she found is called The Orphan Train, and it will be presented by FHS theater students this week.
"I liked the story because it's historical in nature," Breiland said. "It's a part of US history most people don't know about."
Written by Aurand Harris, The Orphan Train is based on events of a century or so ago. The play is set in about 1914. Back then, New York City became home to hundreds of orphans. The children needed homes, but homes were scarce in the city.
It was then that the Children's Home Society came to be. Children's Home Society and Family Services still exists today, as an organization to help children find adoptive parents, and for parents to find children to love.
But 100 years ago, the Children's Home Society came up with an idea to put children on a train -- commonly called the orphan train -- and ship the homeless children to other parts of the country, where there were adults who wanted children, but no orphans to take in.
The Orphan Train is a series of tales based on experiences of some of the children taken in as a result of the Children's Home Society's efforts. Several smaller stories are told throughout the production. The stories are not real, Breiland said, but are intended to portray what happened to some of the children on the orphan train.
"Some of the stories are good, some are not so good, as far as happiness goes," Breiland said. "But it is hopeful."
Breiland is working with a cast of 21 students, only three of whom are seniors this year. She wanted a larger cast so she could bring in more underclassmen and get them interested in Farmington High School's drama program for future years.
Working with the large cast has been a challenge, but only because the script itself calls for so many different personalities in the characters. Mostly, it has been a matter of working on accents and dialects for each character, as some are from the East Coast. One of the orphans is Irish, and the train travels through Missouri in the play.
"We've spent a lot of time on character development," Breiland said.
The Orphan Train opens Thursday in the theater at Boeckman Middle School. Performances begin at 7 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $8 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens. The BMS ticket window opens 45 minutes prior to performances.