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Encinal’s ‘Clue’ Delights as Madcap Murder-Mystery Farce

Friday evening, I had the pleasure of attending Encinal Junior-Senior High’s fall play, Clue, a madcap farce-meets-murder mystery based on the iconic 1985 Paramount movie inspired by the classic Hasbro board game.

Alameda Post - a group photo of the cast and crew of Clue
The cast and crew. Photo courtesy Megan Taylor.

The opening night performance, held in the school’s cafeteria, was packed with enthusiastic fans—parents, Encinal and Alameda High students, and community members—excited to enjoy an evening of comedy. On arrival, I was hard pressed to find a seat, and students added more chairs to accommodate the still-arriving crowd.

Alameda Post - a photo of a moment onstage during the play, and a photo of the two directors talking in front of the curtain
Left: A dramatic moment. Right: Co-directors Megan Taylor and August Arneson. Photos Karin K. Jensen.

Youthful co-directors

Co-director Megan Taylor thanked supporters for donating snacks, and invited patrons to pay what they could to help restore the program’s financial footing, which suffered during the pandemic.



“We are donation-supported and trying to provide a free, accessible theater experience for all Alameda students,” Taylor said. “This year, we have an actor from ASTI!”

Taylor is a second-year teacher, instructing chemistry and physiology. Growing up, she performed in community theater and school drama productions. While at UC Santa Cruz, she began directing and loved it. “Now I’m excited to be involved in the drama program at Encinal,” she said.

Co-director August Arneson is an Encinal alumnus and UC Berkeley Data Science student who grew up participating in the Encinal High, Tomorrow Youth Repertory, and Woodminster Summer Musicals programs, acting, directing, and doing tech work.

“I love directing and am so excited to be back at Encinal on the other side of the curtain,” Arneson said.

Alameda Post - a large room full of seated audience members, and students placing extra chairs at the back
The crowd was so large that students added extra chairs to accommodate. Photo Karin K. Jensen.

A killer party

The curtain opened to backdrops of a remote mansion, hand-painted by Encinal students. English butler Wadsworth, played with Jeeves-like wit by Ava Brandt, welcomed six guests, all mysteriously known by pseudonyms—Miss Scarlet, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, and Colonel Mustard—and played with over-the-top flair by Encinal Drama members Claire Paano, Colby Tong, Ava Diener, Naomi Wood, Samantha Cleminshaw, and Isaac Tan.

The guests assembled for an unusual dinner party. When their host turned up dead, they all became suspects. Led by Wadsworth, the guests raced to find the killer as the body count mounted.

“We chose this play because it’s quirky, fun, and nostalgic,” Taylor said. “It’s full of double-entendres, Dad jokes, and Easter eggs.”

Alameda Post- performers onstage during Clue
(L to R) Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Colonel Mustard, Professor Plum, Wadsworth the butler, Mrs. White, and Mrs. Peacock. Photo Karin K. Jensen.

Building community

Local theater builds community and joy. Clue is a great example of the fun it provides. “I love how ridiculous and dramatic it is—all the gasping and pointing,” said Samantha, who plays Mrs. Peacock. Emilia Arneson, who played French maid Yvette, added, “It’s hard not to laugh because everyone is so funny.” Catalina Cabrera, who played the Cook, concurred. “I’m cackling every time, and it’s fun getting to be creepy.”

All those laughs depend on good timing, which takes lots of rehearsal.

“I love seeing it come together after months of hard work,” said stage manager Jett Webb. “And I love the environment. Everyone is nice.” Crew member Kira Hannigan enthused, “Ms. Taylor is new, but I like what she’s doing. She did a good job and attracted students to participate.”

Colby, who played Professor Plum, summarized the general sentiment: “My favorite part is all the friends I’ve made and the fun times we’ve had doing this.”

Alameda Post - the poster for Clue

Flexibility required

Observing the play’s ease and joy, one wouldn’t suspect the challenging conditions under which it was produced. “We are sharing space with many other activities here on campus. There isn’t a dedicated space or classroom for drama, so it has been interesting to navigate, and it has required all of us to be flexible,” Taylor said.

“The stage we use is in the cafeteria. The rooms we use to complete set building and meet with the stage crew are shared spaces, such as the school pantry and weight room,” she continued. “We’d love to see a dedicated space for the drama department that is conducive and effective for rehearsals, meetings, storage, etc. We are thankful that we have many parent volunteers who have aided us in the supervision and safety of our students.”

Alameda Post - curtain call for Clue
Curtain call. Photo Karin K. Jensen.

A happy ending

By the play’s end, the crowd was wildly cheering and applauding. Behind me, a teen shrieked to her friends, “That was so good and so funny!” In front of me, community members Mark and Carolyn said, “We live close by, so we try to support Encinal’s play. This one was fun!”

Actors and crew spilled into the audience to meet their adoring fans, who welcomed them with high spirits, flowers, and hugs. Taylor and Arneson greeted patrons and received compliments all around. Taylor said, “I am so proud of the young actors who have been working hard in addition to their schoolwork and extracurriculars to bring this fantastic production.”

Encinal’s successful run of Clue included matinee on December 2 and evening performances on December 1 and 2.

Contributing writer Karin K. Jensen covers boards and commissions for the Alameda Post. Contact her via [email protected]. Her writing is collected at https://linktr.ee/karinkjensen and https://alamedapost.com/Karin-K-Jensen.

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