Michael Surgeon directs his original play 'Starsmasher' as part of his senior project at North Medford High School. [Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta]

Rising 'Starsmasher'

Four years ago as a freshman, Michael Surgeon sat in the audience at North Medford High School and watched a fellow drama student, Kate Pelch, direct a series of one-act plays. Ever since, he’s aspired to do the same.

“It’s the power of storytelling that really drives people and speaks to audiences, and that’s what I wanted to do,” says the 17-year-old North Medford senior.

This week, Surgeon’s high school drama career culminates with the world premiere of his original space drama, “Starsmasher,” a story of “heartache, sacrifice, revenge, romance and death.”

Surgeon’s former theater teacher, John Doty, urged him to write a play and stage it for his senior project. Six drafts and more than 100 hours later, the curtain rose on “Starsmasher” Thursday and runs through Saturday in the school’s Little Theater, 1900 N. Keene Way Drive.

Although he’s acted in 13 high school productions over the last four years, Surgeon says he’s always been more interested in writing and directing.

He started writing the play last June, and last fall he presented it to his drama teacher, Sharon Bigelow, and one of her classes for feedback.

“Starsmasher” is set on the planet of Gremolia and follows the story of Tobias Ramshack and his crew, “known as the humanitarians of the galaxy,” and their mission to rescue Princess Stardust and assassinate the new dictator, Leopold Schmidt. But their plans go awry, Surgeon says.

In January, Surgeon submitted the play in the Oregon State Playwriting Competition and was awarded “superior” marks.

A lot of work and hours — more than double the amount required for a senior project — has gone into conceptualizing the production, coaching his cast of 10 freshmen and sophomore drama students, creating costumes and special effects, and rehearsing, Surgeon says.

“The most rewarding thing was getting a group of young people who have never acted before together to create a play that had never been done before in front of an audience in a high school theater,” he says.

In the fall, Surgeon plans to attend Southern Oregon University to study theater and see where playwriting takes him.

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and curtain will be at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $5 online ( or pay-what-you-can at the door. Proceeds from the production will benefit the high school’s drama program.

— Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or Follow her at

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