Something wicked this way comes to NPA

Spooky Northcoast Preparatory Academy students present Wilde Ghosts & Coward Spirits this week at Gist Hall Theatre. Photo by Greg King

Mattea Denney
Northcoast Preparatory Academy

ARCATA – Have you ever wondered what would happen if you combined the works of British writers Oscar Wilde and Noel Coward into a theatrical production? And what if you threw in some music by Cole Porter as well? Northcoast Preparatory Academy (NPA) explores this combination in the premiere of Wilde Ghosts & Coward Spirits, a spooky musical comedy adapted by director Gretha Omey Stenger.

In this year’s junior/senior play, a wealthy American family buys a stately English home only to discover how old world superstitions become a modern-day nuisance. Set in the Roaring Twenties, the show features original student music and choreography.

Omey Stenger, who has directed a number of NPA plays, explained that the impetus for the show came from a copy of The Canterville Ghost that her husband and daughter recently brought home from a book sale. “Already a huge Oscar Wilde fan, I enjoyed the theatricality of the Ghost character and began thinking about how I could adapt it into a script,” said Omey Stenger. “Because it is a short story and is largely narrative, I felt I needed more scenarios to weave in to provide more dialogue and enough roles for a large cast. I began reading other works by Wilde including short stories, plays, essays and poetry; this script is a showcase of some of my favorite finds.”

Every high school student at NPA participates in the theater program. “The play is something I look forward to every year,” said junior Amelia Parker. “I think it’s become a tradition not only for the students and teachers at NPA, but also for the community.”

Nearly 60 students will participate in this production, filling all the roles, providing music and dance and helping backstage.

“It is always a challenge to do an ensemble-style production with such a large number of actors,” said Omey Stenger, who credits NPA founder Dr. Jeanne Heard as a major inspiration. “As a director who started out as an actor, I know how it feels to sit for three hours backstage waiting for my two minutes onstage. In the spirit of ensemble theatre, I want all the actors to get a lot of stage time; that is my main motivation for adapting my own scripts. Ensemble theatre is about creating art collaboratively with every person as an integral part.”

Throughout their four years of high school, the students at NPA take part in two annual main stage productions gaining experience in all areas of production, from acting and choreography to design and directing. Along with the work of the students, help from sponsors such as NorthCoast Knittery and many parent volunteers makes the productions possible.

Performances are at Humboldt State’s Gist Hall Theatre Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 19 to 21 at 7 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 21 and 22 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15/$10 for students, available at Wildberries Marketplace and

NPA is a public charter school and relies on donations for theater productions. If you would like to contribute to the show, please visit


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