Federal Way drama teacher calling in help for final performance

Esteemed drama teacher Lois Gorne contacts alumni to perform last play in school theater

Staff writerNovember 7, 2013 

Lois Gorne, left, advises Jeff Sabado, from the Class of 1988, Thursday to hold rather than wear his top hat while playing the character Mr. Kirby in the alumni production of “You Can’t Take It With You” at Federal Way High School. It’s the last play in the school’s theater, which will be torn down to make way for a new school.

JANET JENSEN — Staff writer

Apparently, you can take it with you.

At least you can if you’re a veteran teacher with a devoted following among a cadre of former students.

Just ask Lois Gorne, the longtime speech/debate coach and drama teacher at Federal Way High School.

This weekend, she and about 20 alumni from her decades at the school are teaming up for a production of the 1930s classic comedy “You Can’t Take It With You,” by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart.

The play was the first Gorne produced after she began teaching drama at the school in 1981. And it will be the last one she directs in the high school’s Little Theater.

Construction of a new Federal Way High School is set to begin in fall 2014. The old theater will be the first piece of the campus to go as the rebuilding happens in phases through fall 2016.

This is the third alumni production Gorne has organized.

“I made some calls, word got around, and it kind of fell into place,” she said of the alumni response.

In recent weeks, cast and crew have been squeezing rehearsals between jobs, family and other obligations.

“They’re pretty dedicated,” said Gorne. “I have complete faith in these people.”

The weekend play is a benefit for Gorne’s first love, the Federal Way High School speech and debate team. She began coaching the team in 1976, then later took on the drama program. During her 28 years at Federal Way High School, she also taught English and leadership classes. She retired from full-time teaching in 2004 but continues her work with competitive speech and debate, teaching an after-school class at the high school.

Over the years, Federal Way’s debate team has won 15 state championships. More than 100 of Gorne’s students have qualified for national competition. All that success means the team racks up travel costs, and Gorne said money raised this weekend will help fund those expenditures.

In 2005, Gorne was recognized by the Washington State Interscholastic Activities Association and inducted into its Hall of Fame.

Alums involved in this weekend’s play speak of her – only using her surname – with an almost cult-like reverence.

“She’s always been ‘Gorne’ to us,” said Cindy Kerns, class of 1987. “It’s always been just ‘Gorne.’ ”

Kerns said she was a shy sophomore when she signed up for drama class. She admits the class was challenging, and at first she wanted to give up. Gorne told her: “You’ll find your niche.”

“I didn’t know what a niche was,” Kerns said. But the teacher helped her gain confidence and perseverance. She wound up majoring in theater in college, then obtaining a master’s in education.

“If she had not seen something in me at age 15, I wouldn’t have been able to do half the things I’ve done in my life,” Kerns said.

Alethia Rodriguez, class of 1991, said Gorne has a way of making students reach for the stars: “She set really high standards for each of us – sometimes higher than you would set for yourself.”

Her older sister, Tiara Rodriguez-Whitney, class of 1986, said the alums “would do anything for Gorne.”

“We are all so excited to be on stage,” she added.

Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635
debbie.cafazzo@ thenewstribune.com


When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Federal Way High School Little Theater, 30611 16th Ave. S.

Tickets: $15 for adults; $8 for students; available at the door. The performance is a benefit for the high school’s speech and debate team.

More: Alumni are also using the occasion of the production to roll out a scholarship they have created in teacher Lois Gorne’s name. To learn more, email fwhsalumniplay@gmail.com

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