Spring play product of drama dept’s dedication, chemistry

As I slip into the back of the theater, I immediately feel the energy emanating from the stage. Decked out with an elaborate set, colorful costumes and glowing lights, the stage is resplendent as it is, but the real energy comes from the actors on stage. It’s only a test run, but the way the actors are performing, one would never know. From my seat in the very back of the audience, I can feel how the actors have poured their time, energy and hearts into this show.

This spring, the drama department is pulling out all the stops for the comedic show “The Hamlet Thrillmageddon,” which they have been preparing for four long months. The ultimate farce, it details a school drama department that lost its funding and is forced to acquire sponsors for their performance of Hamlet (a play which is free, famous and exempt from copyright infringements). However, guided by three narrators of questionable competence (seniors Carrsan Morrissey, Tommy Truelsen and sophomore Grace Gubbrud), the cast on a money-starved quest must change the play to reference the products of their sponsors, and from there on out, hilarity ensues.

Narrator Carrsan Morrissey, right, talks about a scene with the dead king Claudius.

Narrator Carrsan Morrissey, right, talks about a scene with the dead king Claudius.

The Hamlet Thrillmageddon is, in a word, chaotic. “There’s never a dull moment,” senior Abigail Van Patten said. Van Patten would know. In the span of an hour and a half, She plays an angsty teenager, a cheerful teenager, a villager, a courtier and a gravedigger. “I have to snap into roles as fast as I can,” Van Patten said. Shakespeare lovers are in for a definite, but comical, surprise, as the original characters have been reworked with endearing, and hilarious modern interpretation as the characters react to the different commercial products inserted into their interactions.

As funny as this play is, though, cast members say that’s the hardest thing about it. Junior Lucia McNeal noted that because the play is so over-the-top, you really have to get out of your comfort zone. “I’ve never played a comedic role before, so I had to get past all my self-consciousness,” McNeal said.

Van Patten agreed, noting the scene where she has to pretend to cry. It’s worth it though, she said. “The gravedigging scene is really funny, and that’s not something I get to do often, be funny.”

The Hamlet Thrillmageddon is very much an ensemble piece, with many actors onstage all the time. Many of the actors have multiple small parts, which requires the cultivation of multiple characters and many costume changes. So many set and costume changes require the hard work and dedication of the 17 techies, who work constantly behind the scenes moving and preparing set pieces, props and costumes for the next scene. The techies are led by junior Nicole Loy as Stage Manager and senior Kathryn Wright as Assistant Stage Manager, and assisted by CFHS alum Austin Stiers as Technical Director.

While actors ran their lines and learned blocking, techies constructed props and organized huge amounts of costumes.  “We had to paint part of a backdrop, build three different platforms and four different staircases,” Loy said. “We also had to build and paint a boat that gets rolled across the stage, some smaller set pieces and figure out lighting and sound changes.”

Although it might sound excessive, the techies have dealt with much more. “It was a fairly simple show, tech-wise,” Loy said. The entire set was assembled by cast and crew members on Saturday mornings, who took time on top of their regular rehearsals to see the play come together. “I try to come to every set construction, so I’m usually here 20-plus hours a week,” Loy said.

While actors and techies have very different positions, some students really enjoy both roles for different plays. Several techies decided to audition for the first time for Hamlet Thrillmageddon. Sophomore Miriam Queiroz was a costume techie for the fall play, but for the spring play, she decided to audition. “I always wanted to do theater but had too much stuff on my schedule last semester,” Queiroz said. She also noted that both jobs have very distinct feelings but believes they are both important and enjoyable. “Being an actor and being a techie are entirely different things, but being a techie helped me get used to the environment and the people,” Queiroz said.

Senior Carrsan Morrissey, junior John Nichol, and sophomore Grace Gubbrud.

Senior Carrsan Morrissey, junior John Nichol, and sophomore Grace Gubbrud.

Although students have worked on this play since mid-November, they’ve put in extra time this past week, rehearsing from immediately after school up to 9 at night. They did lose one of their late nights due to the band POPS concert on Monday, so they only had late nights on Tuesday and Thursday. (Wednesday is always reserved for church night.) Besides that, the cast has lost multiple rehearsals from weather-related early-outs and cancellations, but an audience member would be none the wiser.

Despite the trials and frustration that sometimes come from theater, the cast remains both passionate about its work and supportive of each other. “We’re a family,” Loy said. “We’re around each other all the time, so you get really close to people.”

Loy also mentioned that while other extracurriculars are competitive, in the play, no one is competing against anyone else, and all the actors come together because they have a common interest. This seems to be a nearly universal opinion. Every student I asked, whether cast or crew, said their favorite thing about play was the people. Van Patten most appreciates her fellow cast and crew for “their openness to others’ opinions, the comedy, [and] the joy that they bring every day. You can talk about your feelings without fear of being judged.”

The drama department welcomes everyone who auditions or gets involved in other ways. Many of the cast and crew this spring are newcomers, but by the chemistry onstage and off, one would never know. The drama department continues to welcome newcomers. “You should join play for the atmosphere, and for the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone,” Van Patten said.

As the scene ends, the curtains close and the narrators pick up their cues seamlessly, the Hamlet Thrillmageddon may seem to be a showcase of chaos, but the achievements behind the scenes are specifically coordinated, well-rehearsed, and most importantly, clearly heartfelt. As I slip out of the auditorium, the energy from the actors still reverbates within me. This may be acting, but the passion, devotion and love behind it is very, very real.

The performances for The Hamlet Thrillmagedon are Friday, March 7 and Saturday, March 8, both at 7:30 p.m. in the Clair C. Stanard auditorium. Tickets are $4 for students and $5 for adults.

 

 

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