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Documentary showcases German production of 'Joseph'

by: COURTESY PHOTO: MICHAEL SHAFER-MONTGOMERY - German student Emanuel Schultz wears his final, shiny coat in the final scene in the German production of 'Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' in 1999. A documentary filmed at the time will be shown Monday at the Elsie Stuhr Center.   As a continuing tribute to the legacy of James N. Erickson, the late Beaverton High School drama teacher and director, a special showing of the documentary chronicling his 1999 journey to Germany to stage “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” has been set.

On Monday, the nearly two-hour film will be shown at the Elsie Stuhr Center, 5550 S.W. Hall Blvd., from 6 to 9 p.m.by: COURTESY PHOTO: MICHAEL SHAFER-MONTGOMERY - Keith Dennis, shown here in Germany in 1999 when he filmed a documentary involving all aspects of a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, now owns a production company, Becker Drive Studios (a nod to his Beaverton Street where he lived as a youth), in Illinois.

The production follows Erickson and 25 drama students from Beaverton and Aloha high schools on their 1999 trip to Wilhelmsdorf, Germany, to fulfill a promise to a German exchange student to stage a spectacular rendition of “Joseph” in his homeland.

Former BHS drama department alumni Keith Dennis accompanied the group to capture the momentous production on film.

For his part, Dennis was no stranger to Beaverton High School musical documentaries, having filmed two — “Hello Dolly” and “42nd Street.” Dennis recalled that when he returned from Germany, he spent about a month — working mostly at night — editing the project.

“It wasn’t until about 10 minutes were edited that I realized that I could tell the entire story of Joseph just through rehearsal footage, with a little vignette highlighting a behind-the-scenes element between each scene,” said Dennis, who is a successful director and production company owner in Illinois. “That’s why the movie doesn’t start with the first scene of the play, because I hadn’t figured it out yet, and in those days, you had to do things linearly, and I didn’t want to start over.”

Dennis called Erickson a “powerful force of a man” who on the surface appeared to care only about his plays, designing, planning and choreographing each one.

“It was a very intense relationship because he expected perfection,” recalled Dennis. “He was the kind of motivator who would raise the bar higher than you could ever reach, but when you looked back, you realized how much you achieved just by attempting to reach that bar.”

However, when Dennis looks back and realizes all the school accomplished under Erickson’s leadership, “It blows me away.’

“The quality of our shows was unparalleled,” he said. “I still, 20 years later, have never seen anything like it.”

Erickson died in 2004, after putting on more than 310 productions throughout his expansive career.

Michael Shafer-Montgomery, who put together the James N. Erickson Legacy Project now on display at the Beaverton Historical Society and History Center through Aug. 28, said the documentary “is a rare chance to go back to the time Erickson was at his top form.”

A donation of $5 at the door is suggested for the Monday documentary showing.




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