The Red Dragon Players at Austin High School consistently perform at levels considerably above those of their peers, a fact confirmed once again last year when their Over The Tavern was judged the winner among the one-act plays presented by the largest high schools in Texas.
There's some good fortune and serendipity involved there, as well as a healthy topographic/demographic input, but a good deal of the credit must go to Billy Dragoo, head of the theatre department there. In addition to his coaching and directing abilities, the man has a real teacher's touch in selecting the scripts for his talented young troupe. No "smiley-face" plays here or predictable standards. In the past couple of years I've attended Alan Ayckborne's Season's Greetings, Jane Martin's Talking With, Caryl Churchill's Mad Forest and Tom Dudzik's Over The Tabern (ranked first of the 256 competing submissions from 5A high schools in Texas). And get this, since it's now official: Austin High School will be presenting the pilot production of Spring Awakening, this coming December 8-12.
Lilllian Groag's The Magic Fire fits nicely on that shelf of challenging, instructive playscripts. This play was first produced in 1997 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, with the support of a grant from a Kennedy Center New Play Fund. It's the drama of a family of Austrian and Italian immigrants to Argentina, set in the times of Peronist fascism. In the first act one gets to hear the solemn radio announcement of the death of Eva Peron.
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