Growing up Gilbreth

GREENFIELD — At least a dozen teenagers crowded the stage. Well, of course, a dozen — because the name of the play is “Cheaper By the Dozen.”

Adapted from the book by Frank Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey, “Cheaper By the Dozen” is the story of growing up in the 1920s in a family of 12 brothers and sisters and a father who pioneered industrial motion study. Using his family as his laboratory, Frank Gilbreth Sr. preached efficiency, encouraging his children to listen to foreign language lessons while in the bathroom, employing chore charts, demonstrating the most efficient way to take a bath and developing a touch-typing system with his children as test subjects. The Gilbreth children would be the first to tell you it was an interesting way to grow up.

Greenfield-Central Drama will present “Cheaper by the Dozen” January 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. and January 25 at 2 p.m. at Greenfield-Central High School, 810 N. Broadway. Directed by Carolyn Voigt, the crew and the cast of 16 has been working on the show after school and on weekends since mid-November.

At a recent rehearsal, under the leadership of Voigt and her sidekick, technical director Dennis Cole, all things theater seemed to be moving smoothly. The actors were rehearsing free of scripts; some actors modeled possible costumes ideas; the set — a turn-of-the-century Victorian home — featured doors, a stairway, several pieces of furniture and blue-on-blue stenciled walls.

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As tech director, Cole sang the praises of his tech staff. With the auditorium being a school and community property — and used by many groups during the course of rehearsal — building the set can sometimes be a tricky proposition, Cole explained.

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Cole came up with an idea that he calls ‘the Lego approach’ to set building. Instead of the traditional linear plan for building the set on the stage, then painting and decorating it, Cole directed his crew to build and paint the flats individually.

“They were stacked in the back, ready to go,” Cole said, “and last Monday we came in and attached everything.”

The plan is especially attractive to the ‘paint people,’ Cole said. Since they no longer have to wait until the last minute to paint, they’re not so stressed out.

The extra time given for painting allowed the painting crew to stretch their creative wings with the set decoration. Using a flowered stencil image, the crew dabbed dark blue paint over light blue to create a patterned wallpaper effect. On the wall going up the stairs, the painters used a lace tablecloth as a stencil and dark blue spray paint applied over light blue to create a textured effect, all of which adds to the charm of the old and elegant house.

The publicity team had a few tricks up its sleeves also. Voigt, Cole and many of the actors wore pins with stopwatches on them — which, as it turns out — is a very clever marketing scheme. As the kids are often asked, “Why are you wearing a pin with a stopwatch on it?”, the pins serve as conversation starters allowing the cast and crew to talk up the show to whomever asks the question.

The stopwatch is the perfect symbol for a show about a motion study expert; the father often timed his kids performing certain activities.

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Sophomore Kathryn Reeves plays one of the 12 Gilbreth children. The Gilbreths were notable for their red hair, and Reeves is already getting into character with her dyed red locks.

“I normally have brown hair,” Reeves said, “But I love the red.”

Reeves, who played Anne Frank in a recent Greenfield-Central production, portrays Jackie. Her stand-out scene is when she gets to scream answers to math problems at the teacher. (Mr. Gilbreth taught his children a way to mentally compute double-digit multiplication problems.)

Senior Mina Dobbins plays Dan, one of the mischief making Gilbreth twins. Having recently starred as Jack in “Jack in the Giant Beanstalk,” Dobbins is no stranger to playing energetic boy characters.

Dobbins asserts that being a little sister is an asset to getting into character as Dan.

“As a younger sibling,” Dobbins said, “I know how much fun it is to poke fun at your older siblings. It’s a little power you have over them.”

Tyler Hornaday heads up the Gilbreth family as Frank Sr. Hornaday has taken on the challenge of a lead role as his first theatrical experience.

Hornaday, a senior and a student council president, credits his fellow actors with making him feel at ease on the stage.

“These fine people — who are a bit more experienced than me — gave me tips to help me know what to do,” Hornaday said.

“And my mom runs lines with me,” he added.

Although Voigt and Cole haven’t put a stopwatch on the kids during rehearsal and tech time, things are moving right along, and the production is right on schedule.

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Voigt looks forward to putting the show in front of an audience.

“It’s a coming-of-age story that many of our students can relate to,” Voigt said, “and take a step back to appreciate the people who formed who you are today.”

If you go

Greenfield-Central Drama will present “Cheaper by the Dozen” January 23 and 24 at 7 p.m. and January 25 at 2 p.m. at Greenfield-Central High School, 810 N. Broadway.

Tickets are $6 for students and seniors and $7 for adults.

Available at or at the box office before the show



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