Tag Archives: theatre

Murder, mayhem take the stage: Arsenic & Old Lace delivers laughter, fun, delightfully wicked chaos

On Halloween weekend the theatre department performed the 1944 Broadway play Arsenic and Old Lace. The scene is set in 1940’s Brooklyn, New York, Mortimer Brewster brings home his fiancé to meet his seemingly normal aunts, Abby and Martha Brewster, only to discover that his aunts have an unusual method of comforting lonely bachelors involving poison and a one way ticket to the basement.

Bales cast senior Sammi Anderson in the role of Abby Brewster because of her remarkable acting skills and her phenomenal work ethic. Anderson describes Aunt Abby as the dominant, controlling leader of the murderous duo.

“She definitely likes to lead things,” Anderson said. “She’s more courageous when it comes to scary situations.” When trying to get into the character, Anderson thought a lot about the mannerisms of her grandmother. After memorizing her lines, Anderson understood the meaning and personality behind the character.

Sophomore Chloe Voss, who plays Abby’s sister Martha, describes her as a fun character to play.

“It’s great being an old lady,” Voss said. “That’s the one way I relate to her. It’s just a great character to play.”

Bales said that chemistry between Voss and Anderson seem as if they are real sisters.

“When you have to be a sister [to a] character, you can’t have a space between you two. You have to be near her and you do it together,” Voss said.

According to Bales, Voss is a dedicated actress who is committed to her role and to performing it precisely.

“When she read, I knew that she had studied and was dedicated. It was obvious that she was Aunt Martha,” Bales said.
In the iconic role of Mortimer senior Ben Sampson has his frantic moments of panic.

“I like the part where he gets mad,” Sampson said. “I don’t normally play those kinds of roles, so it was a nice change and a nice way to explore that side to my acting.”

Senior Dominique Herring, who plays Mortimer’s fiancé, has been active in the theatre department for all of her high school career.

“I wanted to keep trying until I got a main role,” Herring said. “I don’t have to alter myself a lot. She’s pretty normal, but she’s way more sexy.”

When choosing a play, Bales always takes into consideration that only a handful of his students will pursue acting in college and professionally.

“I want them to really get into the meat of the character, to get into the piece that the author wrote,” Bales said.
Sampson said that the cast works remarkably well together because of their close friendships and because of their previous musicals and plays.

“The play is so old, yet timeless, and I think that sets it out from other plays,” Sampson said. “Our chemistry is just really meshed together.”

~gretchen deitrich, staff reporter

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Brown dreams big, thrives, overcomes

Being different is acceptable at A Place To Be, an organization that celebrates the gifts of people with disabilities and helps them face life’s challenges using music, dance, creative writing and the dramatic arts. Last June, sophomore Veronica Brown starred in The Little Mermaid at A Place to Be in Middleburg.

“I played Aerial, the lead part,” Brown said. “It was fun because you had to make the costumes, the lights, and help with the makeup. My favorite part was falling in love with Prince Eric in the boat.”

Brown was born with Down syndrome, caused by one extra chromosome, which affects the development of the body and brain. Though the severity of the symptoms varies, certain physical characteristics distinguish someone with Down syndrome, such as a crease on the hands.

“It’s different because there are patterns on the hands, like this one has a line,” Brown said. “There’s a difference. I was born with it when I was little. They didn’t know that I had Down syndrome, and my mom noticed it while I was really little.”

Brown struggles with articulation in her performances, but she memorized all her lines, sang, and danced.

“Generally it’s hard to understand kids with Down syndrome,” Brown’s mother, Maite Dougherty, said. “That’s her biggest challenge, one that she continues to work on, through speech therapy at school, and also at A Place To Be. The memorization? No problem. She doesn’t have stage fright; she loves being on stage, she loves performing.”

Brown is talented in many areas. She plays soccer and basketball, and she bowls in the Special Olympics. She also loves to sing and dance.

“I like writing my songs,” Brown said. “My sister and I wrote a song, and it was really good actually, and that is my dream. My dream is to sing in Times Square. Then I’ll be on live TV in New York, and I’ll be in a band.”

Because Down syndrome makes learning a greater challenge for Brown, she takes her academic courses in classes for students who need extra support. Special Education Department head Amanda Mallory knows Brown well and attended her performance. Mallory describes Brown as outgoing and a natural talent; she cautions against underestimating people with disabilities.

“She’s got the kind of personality where she’s good for anything,” Mallory said. “Veronica will come and chat my ear off, but she can also be very shy. Down syndrome has a lot of physical characteristics. People see those characteristics and are put off, but they really shouldn’t be. Socially for Veronica, it’s [difficult] because if nobody’s talking to you, you’re going to assume that they don’t like you.”

Teens with Down syndrome are known for being very friendly, kind, and easy to get along with.
“I think the stereotyping is going to be her hardest challenge,” Dougherty said. “She can’t hide how she looks. I think she is prejudged a little bit, before she’s been given a chance. [She is] a person who is very much a teenager, like the rest of you, but what’s stopping her from connecting with other people is that people shy away from her first because they don’t understand.”

Brown has been to A Place To Be for other activities, including music therapy, speech therapy, and theater improv, and she participated in last year’s play Aladdin. This year, the cast of Little Mermaid had nearly 40 people.

“The production is really great,” Dougherty said. “It’s very professional – the lighting, the stage set, the costumes – it’s quite elaborate. They take it very seriously.”

The show lasted three nights, with 150 people in the audience each night. Brown’s family came, and Mallory brought her family to see it. Brown signed autographs.

“The self confidence is incredible,” Dougherty said. “You know the feeling when you’ve done a good job; people are clapping, people are congratulating you. People are noticing that you exist. The kids get acceptance, exposure, confidence, a lot of clapping, and a lot of laughing. Everybody has something to offer, and they find it at A Place To Be. It’s brilliant.”

Brown will act in another play called Same Sky this fall.

“I was really brave because all of my family was there – my sisters, my dad, my mom, my stepdad, and my cousin,” Brown said. “You just have to memorize your lines and sing the lyrics of the songs, and just keep on practicing until you get it. Acting is one of my favorite things. I think it’s really good for me.”

~Jake Lunsford, staff reporter

Hello, Dolly! to open in April

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famed musical, Hello, Dolly!, and the school, which also turned 50, joins the celebration this spring with its production of the musical. Senior Sadie Carr stars as Dolly Levi, a widowed, brazen matchmaker well-known for her “meddlings” in the affairs of men and women.
“There’s a lot of audience involvement, and I love that,” director Melanie Ankney said. “It’s energetic and quick-paced; the music is fun and memorable, as well.”
Dolly attempts to find a wife for wealthy grump Horace Vandergelder, played by junior Brice Ternois —all while subtly hoping to catch him for herself. Vandergelder’s young niece, Ermengarde (junior Baylee Alerding), along with his clerks, Cornelius Hackl (senior Thomas Hooker) and Barnaby Tucker (freshman Ben Sampson), also gets mixed up in the matchmaking.
“I like Dolly; she’s very mischievous,” said Carr. “She has a big personality, so she’s a lot a fun to play. Also, I like that there’s a lot of singing, as opposed to its being a dance-heavy show.”
Because of the renovations to the science and music wings, the musical must be held a month earlier than the show usually opens, and the cast and crew must use the new building for rehearsal space. The old green room and dressing rooms are also unavailable because of renovations.
“Our temporary green room is the student lounge in the new building,” Ankney said. “Bob Rankin does all of the technical work for the show; I would call him a technical genius. He’s wiring the student lounge so that they can hear what’s going on, because there’s no room backstage.”
The show has a new choreographer, Kim Bosch van Drakenstein, who adds a vital spark to dance rehearsals, according to Ankney.
“She has a very strong background in ballroom dancing,” Ankney said. “She’s just delightful. People are enjoying working with her.”
As with other shows, Hello, Dolly! has an army of student leaders who aid Ankney in production: senior Emma Nobile leads the orchestra pit, senior Courtney Rice is the dance captain, and Carr, with senior Thomas Hooker, are vocal captains. Hooker is also the show’s assistant director, and his duties have expanded this year to include directing the ensemble.
“In a musical, there’s often the feeling that the principal characters are more important,” Hooker said. “I’m trying to help them understand how important the ensemble is to the show. The ensemble also has a lot of people who are new to theater. I want to make sure they leave this show wanting to do more theater.”
Hooker rounds out his participation in the musical as an actor; he plays Cornelius Hackl, one of two clerks in Horace’s profitable mill.
“It’s difficult to play him because he is 33 years old, yet he’s very naïve,” Hooker said. “But he’s a fun character to play because he’s so inexperienced – he’s never been with a woman.”
Hello, Dolly! premiers on April 11 at 7 p.m. Successive shows are on April 12, 19, and 20 at 7 p.m., and April 20 at 1 p.m. Tickets cost $12, and $10 for students and senior citizens.

~Sophie Byvik, editor-in-chief

“Richard III” to debut this weekend

Shakespeare Troupe’s production of “Richard III” will be performed in the new cafeteria on Friday, Feb. 1 and Saturday, Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.

Written in 1591 by William Shakespeare, the tragedy follows the rise to power, as well as the short lived reign, of Richard III of England

“[Richard III] is considered by many to be Shakespeare’s most famous and entertaining work,” troupe director senior Marina Finelli said. “It is culturally enriching, gut wrenching, and exciting.”

Strong acting by troupe members is reason enough to come out for the show, according to Finelli.

“They interpret the language so well that audiences won’t have to focus to understand the plot,” Finelli said. “They also make the twisted manipulation and raw emotion so realistic that it has me on the edge of my seat every day, even though I’ve watched them perform countless times.”

~Abby Seitz, online editor

Les Mis: Epic story brings tears

I have been a sucker for musicals since my family took me to New York at age five, and I saw my first Broadway performance of Beauty and the Beast. So, when I heard that Victor Hugo’s classic novel, Les Miserables, was being made into a movie, I knew that I had to see it. Better known as Les Miz, the film was mesmerizing.
Taking place in France about 25 years after the French Revolution, Les Miserables is a tale about political injustice, redemption, unrequited love, and lost dreams. The story centers on Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a downtrodden man, who is paroled after serving a 19-year prison sentence for stealing a loaf of  bread. The film chronicles his trials and triumphs as he works toward redemption. Along the way, he encounters characters such as Javert (Russell Crowe) the relentless police inspector, Fantine (Anne Hathaway) an unwed mother, and the Thenardiers, played by Helena Bonham Carter and Sasha Baron Cohen. Needless to say, director Tom Hooper pulled together an A-List cast. Anne Hathaway shocked me with her amazing vulnerability, and the raunchy comedian, Sasha Baron Cohen, has redeemed himself.
The film’s soundtrack is sure to please. The classics, “I Dreamed a Dream” and “On My Own,” are sure to provide chills to listeners. These songs have been stripped down of the usual theatrics, and the lyrics truly resonate, so that the audience can fully empathize with the characters. You’re definitely going to want to bring tissues. There are also campy tunes, such as “Master of the House,” which was stuck in my head for days. This song provided some much needed comic relief.
Another thing that I enjoyed was the spectacular costumes and make-up artistry. I felt like I was sitting in the middle of the students’ revolution. Because the film covers a large span of time, all of the characters had to age realistically; Hugh Jackman is virtually unrecognizable at times. I would not be surprised if there is an Oscar nomination in the costume designers’ future.
Les Miserables is a truly epic production. It was heart-wrenching, touching, uplifting, and an all-around emotional roller coaster. Thematically, the film offers a powerful portrayal of the poor and the wretched during a pivotal point in French history.  I give Les Miz four stars, and rate it as quite possibly the best movie of 2012.
~Jordyn Elliott, associate editor

‘Earnest’ expected to please audiences

photo by sophie byvik
Algernon (junior Daneel Patel) and Jack Worthing (senior Thomas Hooker) discuss the virtues and vices of courtship and marriage as Jack reveals his plan to propose to the lovely Gwendolen Fairfax.
The winter production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest opens tonight at 7 p.m. Director Melanie Ankney has reveled in the experience of learning with the actors and producing a play to be proud of.
“The rehearsals have been wonderful,” Ankney said. “It’s nice to start a product and finish it. I love working one-on-one with the actors. It’s been fun getting to know a group of students I didn’t know at the beginning of the year.”
The Importance of Being Earnest follows bachelor John Worthing’s, as he attempts to capture the heart of young Gwendolen Fairfax, who will only wed a man named Earnest. Worthing’s best friend and Fairfax’s cousin, Algernon Moncrieff, refuses to give him consent to marry her unless he explains a peculiar inscription engraved on his cigarette case, forcing Jack to reveal his mysterious double-life. The play is traditionally set in England in the late 1800s. However, Ankney has adapted the production to fit her own style.
“It’s going to take place in early 60s London, and the script lends itself easily to that,” Ankney said. “We only changed a couple of words in the script. The play is so much about surfaces, and I think dealing with kind of a plastic -mod- 60s kind of feel supports that. I also feel that it makes it a little more accessible.”
The Importance of Being Earnest presents a new opportunity for the cast. Many of the actors will be performing speaking roles for the first time, and others are new to the stage entirely. Sophomore Olivia Fresa will play Cecilly Cardow, her first leading role.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be cast,” Fresa said. “My character is kind of naïve and a little bit innocent, and I can pull it off because she’s kind of like me. She thinks she’s been engaged to Algernon for months when it was just misunderstanding. She’s kind of ditsy and funny.
Sophomore Annalise Sears was overwhelmed when she found out she had been cast.
“I ran down my driveway screaming,” Sears said. “It just felt amazing. I was honored and very excited. My character is an old lady, so to get into character I think of old lady things, like crochet and cats.”
Junior Daneel Patel, who plays Algernon Moncrieff, landed his first lead role and the role he aspired to since the beginning of the audition process.
“When I got my role I literally started dancing,” Patel said. Algernon is a giant flirt. A good thing about Algernon is that a lot of him is me already, so although I do get to act, I also get to show a little of myself onstage.”   The cast has been rehearsing several days a week since late October, working to overcome the obstacles that come with putting together a production.
“The biggest challenges I’ve faced have been scheduling conflicts, whether it’s scheduling the auditorium, scheduling rehearsal time, or coordinating with Shakespeare Troupe and the One Acts,” Ankney said. “When students have so many opportunities, you don’t want to make them choose just one thing, so that’s been a challenge for me.”
Senior Thomas Hooker, who plays John Worthing, finds challenges both in adapting to his character and mastering the script.
“I have to learn the dialect, and that’s definitely a pain in the butt,” Hooker said. “Also, there are a lot of lines to memorize, but I guess that comes with any play. I just look at the lines over and over again until they stick.”
The Importance of Being Earnest is Ankney’s first solo production with FHS, taking over the mantle of director from 11-year theater veteran Kevin Mettinger. Mettinger turned over his final spring musical, The Drowsy Chaperone, to Ankney mid-production.
“I think my approach to directing is very different than Mr. Mettinger’s was,” Ankney said. “My education was in performance, as opposed to Kevin’s, which was in direction itself. He had a lot of insights as a director that I’m still learning about, but as a performer I feel like I can probably relate to and develop the acting in a different way. I think my vision in theater is not as focused on spectacle as Mr. Mettinger’s, and some people will like that and some people won’t. The set will be interesting, but it’s not going to fill in every detail for you.”
As opening night approaches, nerves build among the cast.
“I’m nervous about having enough time to do what we need to do, about being ready,” Ankney said. “But 80 percent of the director’s job is in casting, and I feel like this is the right cast and that, no matter what, it’s going to be a great show.”

Performances will be held January 11, 12, 18, and 19 at 7 p.m., and January 13 and 20 at 2 p.m.