MOUNTLAKE TERRACE - He can't see the chalkboard. The teacher is a blur. To read, he has to graze his nose across a page of words in half-inch-high letters.
But being legally blind doesn't stop 18-year-old Hy Cohen from becoming Mountlake Terrace High School's most prolific student director and playwright.
Cohen's third production - a two-hour musical he wrote, directed, produced and stars in - opens tomorrow.
The first performance of "The Magic of Dreaming" will be a minor miracle, Cohen acknowledged. Half of the student cast dropped out at the last minute because of scheduling conflicts. Cohen himself is filling in for one of the actors. A week before the presentation, some of the musical's songs had not been written.
Sight-impaired since birth because of holes in his optic nerves, Cohen can't see the actors. He directs by getting on stage with them and using his hearing, communication skills, touch and memory.
"I have a great imagination," he said at a recent rehearsal. "I can picture anything."
Like directors the world over, Cohen can be tough and get angry, some of his theater staffers said. But basically he's fun to work with.
"It's pretty cool" said lead actor Alex Kile, a seventh-grader.
"The Magic of Dreaming" is about a boy's imaginary quest for his lost father, guided by a troll named Miplet that Cohen calls a "professional dreamer."
Cohen is producing the play in connection with the
high-school-drama department and drama teacher Allyn Turner.
"He's very talented," Turner said. "He has great insight and vision into what he sees. He has the initiative and follow-through in most cases to bring that to reality."
"Drama is his passion," said Bruce Beaman, assistant principal. "He puts his all into it."
Last summer Cohen ran the sound equipment for a play put on by the Driftwood Players in Edmonds.
"You feel for it," he said. "That's how I do everything. I basically memorize where everything is. I feel and count the buttons over."
Acting is no problem, Cohen says, because actors' movements and stage settings are predetermined.
The judges who awarded him a best-actor award in a competition in ninth grade didn't even know he was blind, he said.
"The world says that because I'm legally blind there are things I cannot do," he said, speaking about his desire to write and produce plays. "I told myself I'm going to do that. I don't care how long it takes me."
------------------ TICKET INFORMATION ------------------
"The Magic of Dreaming" will be performed at 7:15 p.m. tomorrow and Friday at the Mountlake Terrace High School Theater, 21801 44th Ave. W. Tickets are $4 for adults and $3 for youths with Edmonds School District student-body cards and for children under 11. For more information, call 298-8795.