What Momma said, Chad Wells did.
The 18-year-old Park View High School senior took a drama class when he could not think of another elective.
"Do drama, you'll like it," Wells' mother said, so Wells took her advice.
Four years later, Wells is the assistant director of the school's upcoming spring musical, "Pippin," and the president of the Park View High School Chapter of the International Thespian Society.
"It's fun. It doesn't feel like a clique at all. Anybody can join and have fun," Wells said.
Seventeen-year-old Katy Hershberger joined the school's theater department for different reasons.
"This place is perfect for me because I love singing and acting, just performing in general," said Hershberger, a senior also involved in theater since her freshman year.
Hershberger and Wells talked in the audience as other students began stretching and dancing to prepare for last Wednesday's practice, one of the many the Prairie Players — the school's drama club — will hold before "Pippin" runs early next month. "Pippin," the story of a man who wants to become king, will be reviewed by the Cappies.
CAPPIES, a group of student critics from 39 high schools, attend and review one show a year from the participating schools and are required to review a total of two for membership. About 30 of the student critics attend each school's show, then write up reviews, two of which are selected for publication in The Washington Post. From their critiques, the Cappies select the best show, best actor and other Tonys-style awards to honor at the year-end Cappies Gala.
Hershberger joined Cappies last year for a chance to express her opinions and to glimpse at what other theater departments are doing.
"I like being able to see other people's shows and learn from them," said Hershberger, one of six Cappies from Park View High School and a member of the three-year program since last year. Park View joined last year.
Drama teacher Amy "A.J." Greely said Cappies teaches students how to do critiques and accept criticism.
"The kids enjoy the awards show and being recognized. What they enjoy most is the interaction with the other students," said Greely, a drama and English teacher who lives in Cabin John, Md., and has taught at the school for the past six years. "It helps them develop relationships outside of their high school programs."
Inside the Park View program, the school holds a spring musical every year, along with two plays in the fall and winter. Greely requires her advanced drama students to read plays in the summer and propose a performance selection for the school year. The students write and present proposals with a rough budget and proposed set design. Their classmates select the top four proposals to go before the rest of the theater department for a vote on the two final plays. The musical is teacher selected.
THE THEATER DEPARTMENT, established in 1976 when the school opened, consists of students who audition for any of the plays, take level 1-4 drama classes and provide the lighting, sound and other technical work for the shows. The Prairie Players act as the school's drama club and have about 150 members that filter in and out of membership as they participate in drama activities.
"The kids tend to get close, and it's like a family atmosphere," Greely said.
Sometimes, the "family" wants to let others in, hence the Cappies.
"I thought it was a really good program to get theater more attention," Hershberger said, adding that high school sport teams typically receive more media attention than the drama departments. "It gives us our time to shine."
"It gives people recognition I think they deserve," Wells said.