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CHS drama offers modern Holmes for the holiday

Need more intrigue in your life than just shaking the box to guess your holiday presents? Then treat yourself to a real mystery with the CHS production of “Sherlock Holmes in Raven’s Manor.”

In classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle style, Salinas High School graduate Raleigh Welch’s original play spins a tale that is at turns humorous and serious, as an undercover Holmes—played by senior Cameron Poletti—investigates suspicious happenings at a wealthy English estate.

“There are a lot of interesting plot twists, and just hearing how his progression of logic leads to each different discovery and whatnot … makes it interesting,” comments junior Austin Aldrich, who is starring as Holmes’ friend and assistant Watson.

In a time of crisis at his manor, Nathaniel Raven (Zane Saddy) questions his wife (Mia Pak) while Violet Hunter (Natascha Togan) looks on.

Cameron Poletti and Austin Aldrick debate the mystery at hand as Sherlock and Watson in Raleigh Welch’s new play.

Aldrich goes on to commend Welch’s professionalism as a playwright, which is apparently not an uncommon pursuit among local students.

Drama teacher Michael Jacobs has enjoyed putting on many student-written shows over the years, recent examples of which include “Soup and Salad” and “Mine’s Bigger Than Yours.”

These student-written hits have not only been well-received, but have impressed upon Jacobs the level of creativity in this area. Indeed, Jacobs won’t do an original play unless it is professional and can be produced anywhere, not just at a high school.

“Honestly, I just really wanted to write a show,” Welch says. After a friend of his wrote one based on “Frankenstein,” a jealous 17-year-old Welch took on Sherlock, another gothic mystery.

“I wrote one-acts before, but never a full-length show, and it was a lot harder than I expected. Being a mystery with eight characters, it’s very hard to keep everything straight.”

His teacher at Salinas High put it on his junior year, and this year Welch is directing it himself. By age 19, he hopes to have it published.

Sherlock with Saddy Pak Togan

In a time of crisis at his manor, Nathaniel Raven (Zane Saddy) questions his wife (Mia Pak) while Violet Hunter (Natascha Togan) looks on.

Looking back, Welch recognizes how rewarding the experience has been, and he encourages aspiring young artists to create whatever they want, but warns that “it is not easy.”

“Everyone sucks at writing,” he says, but notes that success comes from how much one rewrites and edits. He cites his own multiple-draft process and points out how he is still changing his dialogue.

Whether Welch’s production is inspired creativity or creativity that inspires is a trivial distinction. The fact remains that nowadays, as technological opportunities abound, people are getting work in theatre by creating their own.

In Jacobs’ words, “We know Neil Simon. We know Christopher Durang. We don’t know the new stuff, and so my philosophy is the more you can create of yourself and bring yourself out into monologues and scenes and plays, the more likely it is that you’re gonna get work.”

Since “we’ve seen all the old stuff,” why not come get inspired by the new? “Sherlock Holmes in Raven’s Manor” opens tonight in the Black Box Theater and plays through the weekend, with 7 p.m. showings on Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday.
-Michael Montgomery

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