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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on February 12th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 49 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 13, Issue 49

Exploring relationship

Just in time for Valentine's Day, Pioneer Valley High School Drama presents its production of the romantic comedy 'Almost, Maine'


Nothing can compare to the intimacy of a romantic relationship. The passion, the pain, the growth, and the comfort are all spun about in a blizzard of interaction. The Pioneer Valley High School Drama Department’s production of Almost, Maine is a theatrical study of relationships in all their glory, difficulty, and hilarity.

Young love:
Pioneer Valley High School’s production of the romantic comedy Almost, Maine features 10 scenes, each featuring an interaction between a couple.

The relatively new play has already made quite a name for itself in the high school theater circuit, being the most performed nonmusical play in American high schools, according to Pioneer Valley drama teacher Shawnah Van Gronigen.

“I think it’s popular because it’s fairly new, and it’s really accessible
to kids,” she said. “It’s about relationships, and high school kids really like that.”

The plot is a series of sketches depicting couples from the fictional city of Almost, Maine. There are 10 scenes featuring a couple each, calling for 20 actors.

The Pioneer Valley High School Theatre Department has been preparing nonstop for the upcoming production ever since the students returned from their winter break. The whole point of the production was to get it ready by Valentine’s Day—opening night.

”It’s a romantic, quirky comedy,” Van Gronigen said, “and perfect to bring your Valentine to see the show.”

Catch the show
Pioneer Valley High School Drama presents its production of Almost, Maine Feb. 14 through 16 at 8 p.m. at the Pioneer Valley High School Drama Room, 675 Panther Drive, Santa Maria. Cost is $8 per couple, $5 per person. More info: 709-1454 or

The play, which will take place in the Pioneer Valley High School Drama room, will feature discounted tickets for couples. The proceeds from the tickets go toward the drama program.

Van Gronigen, who’s been teaching at Pioneer since it opened nine years ago, teaches her students not just how to act, but also how to be skilled theater technicians.

“Actually, I have had four students at Pioneer Valley who have graduated and gone to PCPA in the technical theater program,” she said, “and that is a great program there, and those students have jobs now.”

The skills her students learn in performing arts aren’t limited to acting and technical expertise. A background in performing arts can help with several facets of life, including self-confidence, teamwork, and problem-solving.

Catch the show
Pioneer Valley High School Drama presents its production of Almost, Maine Feb. 14 through 16 at 8 p.m. at the Pioneer Valley High School Drama Room, 675 Panther Drive, Santa Maria. Cost is $8 per couple, $5 per person. More info: 709-1454 or

“They learn to get along with a lot of diverse personalities, and they learn to support each other,” she said, “and I am preparing them to have confidence in something like a job interview. They may not become actors, but it is really helpful in preparing them for their future careers.”

One student, senior Alaina Sriesen, uses the unique skills acting imparts to help her understand her future career.

“In [one] scene Maurcie is breaking up with her longtime husband Phil,” she said. “I’ve kind of related it to my life; my parents were divorced, and so I kind of drew inspiration from that, and from others people’s lives.”

Sriesen hopes to pursue a degree and career in psychology after she graduates form Pioneer Valley High School in June.

“Psychology and drama, they are both pretty connected because they are both dealing with human emotions and mental processes,” she said, “and through drama I have become really interested in psychology.”

Her counterpart in the scene, Phil, is played by fellow senior Jerry Mendoza, who has acted opposite Sriesen for a few years.

“Me and Alaina have worked on other scenes together, and I guess we have really connected with our personalities and acting styles,” he said. “I guess we just really needed to get into a more serious kind of mode and really try to argue without making it fake, to really portray anger and a fight between a husband and wife.”

Mendoza, who hopes to transfer directly to San Diego State University, wants to pursue a degree in theatrical performance while simultaneously pursuing a career as a professional actor.

“I know some people would just throw it off and say, ‘Oh, I did drama in high school,’” he said, “but I would really like to go forward all the way and really fulfill my career as an actor.”

Pioneer Valley High School is fortunate enough to have a full theater arts program, which includes beginning theater classes as well as a history of theater class. The department is also eagerly anticipating the groundbreaking of a new performance theater on the campus.

“It has been a challenge performing in different places, and in a few years we will have a new theater,” Van Gronigen said, “and that will make a huge difference in our program. I think it will take a huge step forward when we have our own theater.”

A solid performing arts department can help students like Sriesen and Mendoza prepare for their future, as well as enjoy a creative outlet with their peers at school.

“I don’t know what I would have done without drama,” Sriesen said. “It really brings out your character. When I wasn’t in drama, I was really shy, and after being in drama I found confidence in myself and in interacting with others and my abilities.”

Arts Editor Joe Payne tries to bring out his character. Contact him at

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