Middle School Play “Breakdown!” Brings the Funny


Cameron Salehi

Eighth graders Jacob Steinger (left) and Ryan Casey portray the play’s two detectives as they question the bus driver, Moe Petty (Casey Crawford) and teacher Joe McGuffey (Cameron Salehi).

This year’s middle school play was not an interpretation of William Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde. Instead, it was an original work by Benjamin’s own drama instructor, Mr. Bob Bayless.

Darian Salehi
Eighth grader Jakob Kroll appears on the BPAC stage as the head of the General Stanley Military Academy, hot on the trail of the escapees.

“Mr. Winters’s idea was a bus of clowns breaking down here [at TBS]. That was the germ of the idea, but we didn’t use all clowns,” said Bayless.

On Friday, January 26, the middle school drama students performed an original comedy called Breakdown! in the Barker Performing Arts Center. It was performed for the entire Middle School faculty and student body that afternoon, the entire TBS community the night before, and for the Lower School on the morning of Wednesday, January 24.

The play, featuring the class’ 17 students (all boys) under the direction of drama teacher Mr. Bob Bayless, was about runaway students and teachers from General Stanley Military Academy trying to figure out how to fix their broken down bus.

In Breakdown!, Moe Petty, a bus driver and teacher played by eighth grader Casey Crawford, crashes his bus full of escapees into a sign owned by The Benjamin School. The teachers and students have to pay Guy Honcho (eighth grader Jakob Kroll), a mechanic from Auto Papa Repair Shop, $5,000 in order to get their bus engine replaced. Since the escapees don’t have enough money to pay the mechanic, they devise a plan to hold and perform in a talent show in the Barker Performing Arts Center to raise the funds.

After a great deal of funny acts such as Marcel (eighth grader Evan Liberman), a mime, being trapped in a box, Julius, a chef played by seventh grader Luke Casper, cooking with ridiculous ingredients, and a group of clowns making bad jokes, the group raises enough money to pay the mechanic. Joe McGuffey, the head teacher, (eighth grader Cameron Salehi) then pays the mechanic $5,000 to replace the engine of the bus.

Darian Salehi
The students in Mrs. Rudner’s dance classes reprise their “Circus” number from the Variety Show in the play.

Bayless even pulled in Mrs. Rudner’s dance students who performed their “Circus” dance number from the Variety Show – by far the best act in the play’s intentionally terrible talent show.

The play took a lot of practice to perfect. “We prepared for about a week,” said seventh grader Ryan Motto. “We prepared by making the script and [practicing] exits and entrances, our cues. Our performance was great because we all acted really well. We went [on stage] on our cues [with] perfect timing.”

Some people had even less time to work on the play. “I worked on the play for two days,” said eighth grader Sai Chigurupati, the only actor who is not a member of the drama class. “Ben Taylor, the guy who was supposed to play [the lion tamer], was absent, so Mr. Bayless asked me on Monday to play his part.”

Although his performance went off without a hitch, Chigurupati thought it could have been even better. “[The play] went well, [but] we could have memorized our cues and put more enthusiasm [into the play],” he said.

Time, unfortunately, was not on their side. “We started working on it once we got back from [winter] break,” said eighth grader Casey Crawford. “Mr. Bayless finished the script less  than a week before our first performance, so we had to study our lines. I thought [our performances] were good for having less than a week to prepare. The first two performances definitely had some slip ups, but the final performance was pretty good,” said Crawford.

“The second [performance] was a lot better [than the first], and the third was just a little bit better [than the second],” agreed Bayless. “I was really proud of the kids and what we produced. It was a good show.”

Although the actors were hard on themselves, the audience enjoyed the play, laughing throughout the performances. “It was funny,” said seventh grader Aadi Patel. “My favorite people were Jacob Steinger [who played Deputy Benjamin Cahn] and Ryan [Casey, who played Lieutenant Ryan Josie]. They were really funny with their [southern] accents.”

“I thought it was pretty good,” added fellow seventh grader Anthony Pace. I think it was a fun experience to watch it and see what the drama kids do all year.”

“I thought everybody in it did an excellent job,” said middle school math teacher Mrs. Gina Thompson. “I was really impressed with the amount of work that the kids put into it, and how awesome they did.”