ALBANY, Ga. -- Life is not easy at the "little red schoolhouse" for Principal Mr. Crabapple and substitute teacher Ms. Quackenbush ... not with the class of "dunces" they have to put up with.
But while trying to keep control of the students will test school officials' mettle, it will provide plenty of laughter for observers of Friday's Byne Christian School dinner theater production of "Recess."
"In the past, our Christmas and spring productions have consisted mostly of songs and scripture," Byne instructor and "Recess" director Tiffany Ours said during a recent rehearsal. "We wanted to increase the level of our productions to include a dramatic element. We also wanted to get secondary as well as elementary students involved."
Ours has done that with "Recess," whose leads are sophomore Cody Brienza and seventh-grader Jenny Harrison.
"My mom kind of forced me into (acting in the play), but it's been fun," Cody said of taking on the role of Principal Crabapple. "I haven't really had time for anything else since we started rehearsals, but I'm looking forward to performing before my friends."
Jenny, meanwhile, has had to play catch-up after volunteering to fill the lead role of Ms. Quackenbush when another actress had to pull out of the play.
"I've acted in the past, and I knew (Ours) was in a pretty desperate situation," the young actress said. "I figured this would be a good way to end my year with a bang. I'm a little nervous (about having to learn lines in a short amount of time), but I think I'll be able to overcome the mental block.
"I like being an actress, and beside my mom always says I'm a drama queen."
A recent rehearsal proved that "Recess's" cast of "dunces" is adept at living up to the reputation of their alter egos. "This is just like our class here," one quipped.
Among the naughty students Ms. Quackenbush will try to tame are Jack (Zachary Carr), Fred (Cade Tillman), Dorothy (Ziya Stubbs), Patsy (Savanna Irvin), Skippy (Tyler Hurst), Little Mary (Elizabeth Rigsby), George (Noah Downs), Peggy (Anna Bruner), the ne'er-do-well Michael (Josh Lopez) and Sam (Michael Parker).
"I thought this would be fun to do; that's why I decided to be in the play," Cade said of his acting debut.
Many of his cohorts agreed.
"A lot of my friends and family will be coming to see the play," Elizabeth said. "Everybody wants us to do well."
Ours, a third-year Byne instructor who teaches third-grade classes; music, Spanish, computer and art classes to K4-fifth grade, and one high school Spanish class, said her young group of actors has responded well to the dinner theater production.
"I've been really pleasantly surprised by the kids' response," she said. "It's been great seeing a whole new person emerge from some of these kids who have always been so quiet and shy. I'm excited to see the kids opening up.
"A lot of times students who aren't involved in sports get overlooked in a school setting, but this gives those kids who aren't interested in sports a creative outlet."
Friday's production, which starts at 6:30 p.m. in the Byne Fellowship Hall, includes a meal of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, fried okra, green beans, roll, dessert and sweet tea. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students.
"Being part of this production has really energized me," Ours said. "I have so much to do during the day that by the end of the day I come to rehearsal tired. But I have such a passion for music, and it's rewarding seeing these kids have so much fun.
"(Headmaster) Mr. (David) Bess told me when we started production that I needed to get a team together to help, and that was some great advice. Volunteers (like parent Rhonda Dyal who was helping with rehearsals Monday) have really been a big part of making sure things come together."
Now if Ms. Quackenbush could just get those dunces to behave.