Elementary School Students Perform in a Play Inspired by David Lynch’s Twin Peaks

david lynch school play

Image by Janet McMil­lan appeared in The Mil­wau­kee Record

For those of us with kids, the grade school play is usu­al­ly a com­bi­na­tion of parental pride and teeth-grat­ing nos­tal­gic civic les­son and/or Bible study. Not so at Mil­wau­kee, WI’s High­land Com­mu­ni­ty School where super cool dra­ma teacher Bar­ry Weber has writ­ten and pro­duced Judy Plays with Fire, a love let­ter to David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks and oth­er Lyn­chophil­ia.

The play has all the hall­marks of the director–red cur­tains, strobe lights, smoke machines, a Badala­men­ti-esque score–along with a back­wards-speak­ing char­ac­ter in a red suit, two earnest and upstand­ing detec­tives, lum­ber­jacks, rab­bits, mys­te­ri­ous peo­ple in white masks, a Log Lady-like char­ac­ter who talks to a Slinky, and a mid­dle Amer­i­ca town called “Cen­ter­ville” that, like Lau­ra Palmer, is “full of secrets.” One char­ac­ter mimes Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Under­stood” into a LED wand–shades of Dean Stock­well in Blue Vel­vet. Char­ac­ter names like Mr. Frost and the MacLach­lans nod to the cre­ators and actors behind Twin Peaks. The entire cast is played by 4th, 5th, and 6th graders, and apart from Mr. Weber, the pro­duc­tion is crewed by High­land stu­dents as well.

This isn’t Weber’s first go at push­ing the bound­aries of school the­ater. His stu­dent the­ater group put on 2014’s ZERO, a cyber­punk tale, and a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic zom­bie pro­duc­tion in 2010 called Pen­guin Attack.
The pro­duc­tion got the atten­tion of the Mil­wau­kee Record who sent reporter Matt Wild out to see the three per­for­mance run that fin­ished last Fri­day. He even gave it a bit of a Vari­ety-style review, say­ing that

“In the case of Judy, (Maeve) Haley is ter­rif­ic as the inquis­i­tive Coop­er sur­ro­gate, though diminu­tive CJ Young steals the show as the schem­ing Mr. Frost. Whether he’s bark­ing orders to his flunkies or lord­ing over his ani­ma­tron­ic house band, Young—who had to take time off from act­ing two years ago due to con­flicts with bas­ket­ball practice—imbues his char­ac­ter with a sur­pris­ing amount of grav­i­tas and men­ace.”

Matt Wild also talked to Weber, who spoke of his desire to give kids more chal­leng­ing works.

“I want to make sure that when I write the scripts there are no ‘trees,’” Weber says, ref­er­enc­ing grade school plays that often give stu­dents thank­less roles as inan­i­mate objects. “I want to write the kind of plays that as a kid I would have real­ly want­ed to do. I cer­tain­ly didn’t know who David Lynch was when I was a kid, but I’m sure I would have real­ly enjoyed it.”

No video has sur­faced yet to match the intrigu­ing pro­duc­tion stills, but we’re on the look­out. In the mean­time, how well do you know Judy?

via Wel­come to Twin Peaks

Relat­ed Con­tent

David Lynch Falls in Love: A Clas­sic Scene From Twin Peaks

The Paint­ings of Filmmaker/Visual Artist David Lynch

Watch David Lynch’s Hotel Room: The Com­plete Minis­eries Fea­tur­ing Har­ry Dean Stan­ton, Grif­fin Dunne, and Crispin Glover (1993)

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills and/or watch his films here.

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