Dowagiac Drama Club to perform ‘The Jungle Book’

Published 2:12 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

DOWAGIAC – “Sometimes we owe our successes as much to our enemies as we do to our friends” is the moral of the tale of the newest production to be performed by local high school drama students.

The Dowagiac Drama Club’s performance of “The Jungle Book” debuts next weekend at the Dowagiac Middle School Performing Arts Center, 57072 Riverside Dr. There will be three performances at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12 and Saturday, Nov. 13, as well as 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 14.

This adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling book intersects the familiar “Jungle Book” story of Mowgli — a young Indian boy who is raised by wolves, befriended by Bagheera the panther and Baloo the bear, and threatened by Shere Kahn the evil tiger — with the life of a young Kipling, sent from his home in Bombay, India to a British boarding school in the 1890s.

In the play, while writing for a short story competition at boarding school, Kipling encounters personalities, which end up paralleling the animal characters he creates for the “Jungle Book.”

“He’s not very well-respected by some of the kids in his school. They pick on him for being different,” said director and DUHS English teacher Tammy Mammel. “So that kind of gets him frustrated, and he creates some characters around the personalities of these school chums.”

Kipling, played by Clayton Miller, turns his tormentors into villains in his story. Fielding becomes the evil Shere Khan, characters played by Jean Potter. Tabaqui, a jackal loyal to Shere Khan, represents a schoolmate called Hanley. Both are played by Calvin Diamond.

As the play jumps from 1890s England to the jungles of India, several students play multiple roles. Olivia Shafer plays Price and wolf pack leader Akela. Bianca Pond plays Willies and Bagheera, while Amelia Jones plays Croft and Baloo.

“These kids are amazing,” Mammel said of her cast. “Last week was like magic hit them, and they were on their lines. They were on their character. It was just wonderful.”

Miller, who plays Kipling, also plays Mowgli as the lead of the play.

“He’s amazing,” Mammel said. “I was floored at how quickly he was able to get his lines memorized.”

For the students playing both an animal and human, Mammel said she has been impressed.

“All of the kids are good about being the people, and also bringing part of those people into the animal characters,” she said. “So, this week, it’s just really polishing, making sure that all of those little tiny character things are there and making sure that all the props are set.”

Additional cast includes Ashton Varney as Mother Wolf, Sydney Huggins and Piper McCleod as wolf cubs, Jeorgia Vann-Mincey as Kaa the snake, Mallory Bakeman as Raan the monkey and choir/drama teacher Hunter Schuur as Hathi the Elephant.

“[Shuur] was really instrumental in helping me try to figure out how I was going to cast this show,” Mammel said.

Also assisting the production are social studies teacher Connor Michael, PAC director Lincoln Clark and Nick Schiltzman.