Teacher Talent: CFHS teacher stars in local play

English teacher Michelle Rathe is well known for the plays she directs at Cedar Falls High School; however, this is not the only theater she participates in. Rathe also acts in several plays done by the community theater.

English teacher Michelle Rathe

English teacher Michelle Rathe

Rathe previously performed in the Oster Regent Theatre’s production of “The Good Doctor” this year, and she is currently in the Oster Regent Theatre’s production of “Clue,” in which she plays Miss Scarlet. The show is directed by Gary Baumgartner.

“[Baumgartner] was one of the first directors I worked with at the Oster, and he was one of the primary people who got me acting again. I had not done much since college, and I have been back into acting [for] six or seven years. Last year was kind of crazy; I did six shows without a break,” Rathe said.

In order to secure the role of Miss Scarlet, Rathe had to participate in two kinds of auditions. The first audition was one where the actors had to read a “cold read monologue,” which is when a director hands the auditioning actors a monologue that they have not read before and gives them a minute or two to look over it before performing it. Rathe then received a call back for the role of Miss Scarlet the following weekend, and she had to read several pages from “Clue” in several different ensemble groupings. “I never think I will get a part, so it is always a tense wait for the call,” Rathe said.

The cast and crew of “Clue” consists of over 30 people. This includes two CFHS alumni, Jacob Hundley and Falken Jaramillo. Rathe said, “I get to work with several actors and actresses that I have worked or wanted to work with before.”

The most difficult part about acting for Rathe is time management. She works on directing the school play every day from 3:15-6 p.m. and rehearses for “Clue” almost every night from 7-10:30 or 11 p.m. She also attends rehearsals for “Clue” on Sundays for four hours, in addition to an occasional three or four hours on Saturdays. “Sometimes it’s hard to manage my time between teaching, directing and acting. Sleep sometimes gets sacrificed,” Rathe said.

Although it is hard to balance her schedule sometimes, Rathe said she really enjoys being in “Clue.” She “loves the sense of fun in the zany comedy,” and she likes playing Miss Scarlet because of the character’s sarcastic humor. “The challenge for me [in playing Miss Scarlet] is doing a Southern accent, which is, ironically, one I have never attempted before,” Rathe said.

Although acting and directing are fairly different, Rathe uses her participation in shows to assist her in her teaching. She believes that performing in shows helps her better empathize with her students. By participating in community theater, Rathe must learn lines, blocking and characterization, so she struggles with the same things her students do. However, she said she enjoys every minute of it. “You become part of a family, and it is fun to develop and create a character who allows you to take off a mask and play someone you could never be,” Rathe said.

“Clue” will be showing on Feb. 21 and 22 at 7:30 p.m., Feb. 23 at 2 p.m., Feb. 28 and 29 at 7:30 p.m. and March 2 at 2 p.m. All performances take place at the Oster Regent Theatre in downtown Cedar Falls. Tickets for the show are $20 each.

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