Most high school students would say they have a pretty busy schedule and don’t have much spare time. Mesa High student, Kyle Ellingson, of the Southern Estates Ward, Kimball Stake, is no exception. When he isn’t in class, he’s playing the violin, running, singing in the all-state choir, attending Boy Scouts and finishing his Eagle project. Yet, somehow, in the midst of all that, he also managed to find time to write a play.
Kyle, 16, wrote, “The Hate Hypothesis – Love’s Amazing Power,” a play based on a story from George Ritchie’s book, Return from Tomorrow, of a man nicknamed “Wild Bill Cody,” who had been a prisoner in the Wuppertal German concentration camp.
Kyle’s play started as an assignment in his advanced drama class, in which each student was required to write a one act play. “Most of the others wanted to do some kind of comedy, but I wanted to do something more dramatic, with a more serious moral message,” says Kyle. “I remembered that story, and it really spoke to me.”
“It was quite a process to watch,” says Sandy Stones, Kyle’s drama teacher. “Each day he would share the vision of his ideas, the students would improvise the scene, then he would take it home and work it out. The next day, the kids would act it out and it would just continue to evolve like that.”
In February, the class took the play to the Educational Theater Association of Arizona student thespians festival, where they had the challenge of bringing in costumes and makeup and, working with an unfamiliar stage and equipment, setting up the scenery, the lighting, the music and sound system, putting on the play, then taking it all down and having it all past the designated line on the stage floor—all within 60 minutes.
The play was subsequently performed on April 15 at Mesa High by 16 Spotlight Drama students. The timing served to emphasize the message of the play, as the production coincided with the 70th Anniversary of the Holocaust.
“We all had to think about what it was like. It was quite emotional for the whole group, but maybe even more so for me,” says Kyle. “Writing and putting on this play has been life-changing for me.”
Play attendee, Rauna Mortensen, commented, “I loved how they put on the play during the anniversary of the Holocaust Remembrance Week. We all left there being changed for the better. It helped me reflect on the great power of the human mind and on one individual, to teach us all a great lesson of holding onto charity despite being surrounded by horrific, gruesome acts. The entire play was like an object lesson for the Relief Society’s motto; that, truly, ‘Charity never faileth.’”