Recent play and awards banquet celebrate 35 year teaching legacy

Hemet Police Chief Brown meets Vinne Herritt who won best supporting actor for his portrayal of "Chief Dave" in "Til The Fat Lady Sings."

Hemet Police Chief Brown meets Vinne Herritt who won best supporting actor for his portrayal of “Chief Dave” in “Til The Fat Lady Sings.”

HEMET – Hemet Police Chief David Brown, city council member and former Hemet Mayor Lori Vanarsdale, current Mayor of Hemet Linda Krupa and many others attended West Valley High School’s annual drama awards banquet Tuesday, May 3.

They – and many others – were at the awards ceremony to show their support for the school’s drama department as well as to honor Stacey West Bailey who is retiring this year, after 35 years of teaching.

Bailey began her teaching career as a speech and theater teacher at Dickinson High School in North Dakota in 1978. She later taught drama and dance at Victor Senior High School, in Victorville. Prior to coming to West Valley HS in 1990, Bailey taught drama, music and other classes at Hemet Junior High School.

In addition to countless other awards and honors, Bailey was inducted into the California Thespian Hall of Fame March 28, during the California Thespian Festival, at the Highlander Auditorium, in Upland.

Many of the local officials and others who attended the awards ceremony were excited to meet several students who depicted them in the school’s latest – and Bailey’s final – production of the school’s annual Murder Mystery Dinner Theatre.

In a sense, the play was a tribute to Bailey’s decades of instructing and mentoring students at the school. With this being Bailey’s last year teaching and with 35 years of of working with students nearly over, the production was titled, “Til the Fat Lady Sings.”

The play was written by professional playwright Kemuel DeMovill – a former West Valley High School student taught by Bailey – who is now the Theatre Manager and Department Chair at University of Hawaii’s Leeward Community College.

“DeMoville graduated in 1996 and has written the drama department’s Murder Mystery Theatres for the last five or six years,” Bailey explained. “The department’s annual Murder Mystery Theatres are always peppered with inside jokes and references to issues specifically related to Hemet, such as the city’s recent budget cuts and political issues, as well as some of the city’s best known and most recognizable residents.”

Final Murder Mystery Theatre with Bailey brings down the house

Stacey Bailey comes face to face with Tracey Bailey, played by student Jesse Bouchard.

Stacey Bailey comes face to face with Tracey Daily, played by student Jesse Bouchard.

This year Bailey knew exactly what she wanted the annual murder mystery to be about and she wanted it to be called, “Til the Fat Lady Sings,” a reference to this being her last year teaching drama at the school.

Bailey explained, “In this year’s production, I wanted the person to be killed to be named Tracey Daily,” an obvious twist on Bailey’s own name.

The play follows how an unknown suspect dressed as Zorro kills “Daily,” while she was auditioning for “The Ghost of Zorro” at the “Ramona Plateau Association.” “The Ghost of Zorro” and “Ramona Plateau Association” were both playful jabs at the Ramona Bowl and their production of Zorro.

The main character in the play was “Lori VanScarsdale,” a reference to City Council Member and former Hemet mayor Vanarsdale. VanScarsdale was played by student Mallory Miller. After Bailey’s character “Dailey,” played by WVHS drama student Jessie Bouchard, was killed off early in the production, VanScarsdale approached “Chief Dave,” a character depicting Hemet Police Chief Brown – played by student Vinne Herritt – and asked him to investigate the murder.

“Chief Dave’s” character told “VanScarsdale” he was too busy with “real” police work to investigate “Dailey’s” murder. “Chief Dave” went on to explain to VanScarsdale he was working undercover – while dressed as “Zorro” – and investigating a local “coke smuggling gang.”

VanScarsdale was understandably shocked to hear of an illicit drug operation occurring within the city. At least until “Chief Dave” explained his investigation had nothing to do with cocaine smuggling and that he was investigating the smuggling of Coke (Coca Cola); as the setting for the play was a “Pepsi only” area. “Chief Dave” was undercover as Zorro so he could infiltrate the criminals – all dressed as Zorro – who had been smuggling the illicit beverage into the city.

“Everybody who is my friend allowed me to use their characters and to poke fun at them,” Bailey explained. In the production, “Scrimshaw DuhNoble,” played by student Kyle Condis, had to fly in from Papua New Guinea and investigate the murder, with assistance from his sidekick, “Dr. Aallard,” a reference to the school’s principle Dr. Alex Ballard. “Dr. Aallard” was played by Alysha Encarnacion and Kayla Williams. “Linda Coupon” representing Hemet’s Mayor Linda Krupa, played by student Brooke Loomis, assisted in the murder investigation. Hemet band teacher TJ Hepbern was another of many lampooned in the play, with student Daniel Clark playing a depiction of him as DJ Heartburn.

“We made fun of everybody,” Bailey explained. “Everyone involved, from the students in the production to those depicted in the play, just had a terrific time.”

During the awards ceremony, many of the students who won awards for their performances in the murder mystery were thrilled and surprised to meet the real people they portrayed in the production. “For the students to get to meet the real people they represented, meant so much to the kids,” Bailey said.

The production was featured over Halloween weekend last year, on Oct. 29, 30 and 31.

Police Chief Dave Brown has always been a strong supporter – and even participant – in WVHS’s drama productions

Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown as the governor in the Ramona Bowl's performance of Zorro. Rebekkah Summers photo

Hemet Police Chief David Brown as the governor in the Ramona Bowl’s performance of Zorro. Rebekkah Summers photo

Chief Brown – who is reportedly a bit of a thespian himself – has made previous cameo appearances in the Ramona Bowl’s productions of Zorro as the governor in 2013 and 2014. Last year, Hemet Fire Chief Dave Brown – no relation to Police Chief David Brown – filled in to play the role of governor, when Police Chief Brown was unable to attend due to being out of town.

“The first year (Police Chief Brown) played the role of governor, he missed every single rehearsal due to police obligations and emergencies,” Bailey explained. “So he was terrified and unsure whether or not he could play the part right, but in the end he pulled it off and he was adorable.”

“By the next year he was much more comfortable with the role so he decided to ham up his part a bit and be funny,” Bailey said.

“He somehow found a wig that looked exactly like Lori Vanarsdale’s hair,” Bailey explained, “During the performance, he came out for his role of governor dressed as the governor, but he came out with this huge black wig on, looking just like Vanarsdale.”

Bailey explained Brown’s performance was going perfect until Vanarsdale – who was in the audience at the time – “completely lost it,” and began laughing from her amphitheater seat, right in the middle of Brown’s comical performance. Brown later admitted the hardest part of his performance was when Vanarsdale started laughing from the audience.

Stacey West Bailey Theatre proposed

as the perfect way to honor a 35-year-long teaching legacy

The cast for Bailey's final Murder Mystery Theatre pose before one of their performances.

The cast for Bailey’s final Murder Mystery Theatre pose before one of their performances.

Police Chief Brown had nothing but praise for the soon-retiring teacher. “Stacey Bailey, who has been a teacher for 35 years is retiring this year. Her dedication will be hard to replace.” Brown said in voicing his admiration and support for Bailey. “She has had a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of local students. Her passion and love of theater has inspired so many and helped to keep our kids safe and off the streets.”

Officials at Hemet PD congratulated Bailey for her decades of service to the community as well as the entire drama department for their hard work and dedication to bringing quality drama productions to the Hemet and San Jacinto Valley.

Braelyn Montgomery – who graduated from West Valley in 2014 – currently attends LaVerne University and is preparing to transfer to UC Santa Cruz as a psychology major. She recently spoke about the four years she spent as a student of Bailey’s, “Those who work with Ms. Bailey know her for the phrase, ‘You’re burning my daylight.’ Not a single second was ever wasted in the West Valley theater with her.” Montgomery continued, “Ms. Bailey helped shape me into the student and employee I am today. She taught me how to collaborate with others, work efficiently under pressure, and she also taught me terrific problem solving skills.”

Kaitlyn Bradshaw – who graduated in 2009 and spent several years in drama and participated in a number of West Valley musicals and plays – talked about Bailey and all she learned from the dedicated teacher. “Ms. Bailey’s daily uplifting words and life lessons will always stick with me,” Bradshaw explained. “She once told me that no matter how high the climb, the view is always worth the effort. I still live by those words.”

Wanting to acknowledge and honor Bailey’s decades of service as a teacher and to the school’s drama and dance department’s, West Valley school administrators are in the process of deciding whether to rename the school’s drama theater in her honor. School officials are considering renaming the theater the “Stacey West Bailey Theatre.” Committee members are considering other similar names and the next committee meeting to decide on the issue is scheduled for Friday, May 13.

Bailey preparing for her final curtain call

Stacey Bailey is retiring from WVHS after 35 years dedicated to teaching students in drama and dance at the school.

Stacey Bailey is retiring from WVHS after 35 years dedicated to teaching students in drama and dance at the school.

Discussing her quickly approaching retirement after three and one half decades of teaching and 26 years of service to WVHS drama and dance students as well as all the contributions she has made to the City of Hemet, Bailey became emotional while explaining, “After 35 years, I can honestly say I have learned as much from my students as I have taught them.”

“This being my final year, we’ve spent this whole year just having a great time together. We have all had so much fun,” Bailey explained.

With a slight tremble in her voice betraying her emotions, Bailey said her last official production is her dance department’s final dance concert, scheduled for May 13 and 14. The title for the concert is appropriately named, “I’ve Had The Time of My Life.”

Janice Jones, the assistant principal at West Valley, recently expressed to Bailey how worried she is for the immediate future of the school’s drama department. But Bailey reassured Jones she still lives in town and is was always just a phone call away. Bailey has dedicated the last number in her last concert to Janice. The song is Charlie Puth’s, “One Call Away.”

As the curtain slowly falls, Stacey West Bailey – who has been the heart, soul and driving force behind West Valley High School’s Drama and Dance Departments for 26 years – will be greatly missed. Thank you Ms. Bailey, for your hard work and loving dedication to the many students you have mentored and the countless lives you have touched over the last 35 years.

Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

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