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Cows for Kids Inspires Play, Soup Benefit

Students at Langley School hold play to benefit Massai tribes in Kenya.

Students at The Langley School have a new twist on the traditional spring play. They’re putting on a play to raise money to purchase cows to help the hometown of one of their teachers.

“Here Come the Cows … or Never Say Moo in Mesa,” a play about a poor desert town that comes together to overcome a sandstorm and fiendish villains, will be performed starting Thursday, March 10, at 7 p.m., at the school, 1411 Balls Hill Road.

Proceeds from admission to the show, along with a soup-tasting contest during intermission the first night, will be donated toward the school’s international service project, Cows for Kids, which will be put toward purchasing cows for Massai families in Africa.

“The students who went to Kenya with me last summer had the opportunity to herd cows for a day in the heat of the African savannah,” said Joseph Lekuton, a teacher at Langley, who organized a trip for students to return with him to visit his native area.

“They learned the importance of cows to Massai people,” he said.

The idea of a project at Langley to benefit the Massai people had always been in the back of his mind, he said, and the students have reinforced it and made it real.

“The program is a very basic concept, trying to give a gift to the (Massai) people that they can take care of and it keeps giving for them. It’s appropriate,” he said.

IN THE MASSAI culture, he explained, cows are not only a source of meat but of milk, and are a form a currency. The Massai people are nomadic herders and do not farm much, he said.

“Coming from the kids, it’s a really powerful message,” Lekuton said. “Some kids have been really captivated with the whole process. We’re trying to build bridges between the United States and Kenya, and there’s no better way than through the students.”

It’s hard to tell if the students are more excited about the play or the fund-raising.

“The play is about a town in Arizona,” said Chelsea Wood, one of the young actors in the play.

The play is set in a soup shack, run by Clare Harris’ character.

“My landlady says I have to pay $200 by the next day, or my shack will be taken over by a dentist, but the town doesn’t have any money,” she said.

The villain, played by Ben DeSanti, is a no-good gambler and drifter, who comes to town looking to steal or deal his way to money.

“I end up here because me and my dancing partner were heading somewhere and lost everything in a sandstorm,” he said.

Jonathan Fifer plays the part of Dan D. Lion, “a cattle buyer from Kansas. The reason the town doesn’t have any money is that all the cows died in the drought,” he said. “I’m not the muscular hero, but I’m sort of the guy who saves the day.”

“The play also features a family reunion, a jelly bean counting contest, a cow stampede, a Texas Polka, a sandstorm, a heat wave, a short love scene, and a death in the first scene,” said Suzannah Weiss, theater director. “There’s also some audience participation, a gambling scene and a pistol-waving sheriff.”

Plus, for those looking for a tasty treat, some soup recipes will be brought to light in the dialogue, she said.

THE INTERMISSION during the first night’s performance will be a special soup-tasting contest, featuring soups made and served by Langley parents, she said.

Cows and cow-print designs have taken over the school’s campus, Weiss said, and the soup shack in the play is where all the action occurs.

In lieu of an admission fee opening night, patrons can donate $5 to taste-test the soups, she said.

“With 25 kids in the show and eight in the tech crew, this is the biggest show we’ve produced since I’ve been here,” she said.

“This fund-raiser is definitely a good thing,” said Chris Earp, who plays Hoot, “a bow-legged sidekick.”

“We’re raising money any way possible,” he said. “We’re putting the money we raise into a bank account.”

Earp is one of the students that accompanied Lekuton to Africa last summer and spent 14 days herding cattle and living with the Massai people.

“Massai culture centers on cows, and without cows, you’ve got nothing,” he said. “This is a good way to help people. We’re not doing much for the tsunami relief, but this is a good alternative.”

Each cow costs $100, Fifer said, “including the shipping to Africa. People are just donating money to our fund-raiser, too.” Many students are looking for other food-based ways to raise money for Cows for Kids as well, he said.

The money will be used to purchase as many cows as possible, although Lekuton said he does not have a definite goal in mind.

“This is for a part of Northern Kenya, for my village. This is for my people,” he said. “There are thousands of people living in this area. The weather conditions every 10 or so years will kill the cows, and sometimes cattle rustlers come in and steal them,” he said of the cattle shortage.

“We just want to help out if we can.”

‘Here Comes the Cows …. or Never Say Moo in Mesa’ will be onstage at the Langley School March 10, 11 and 12, starting at 7 p.m. all three nights. Admission is free the first night and $4 on the other two nights. The soup fund-raiser will only be held during the first performance, but collection boxes will be available all three evenings for those who wish to donate.