A frustrated high school drama teacher skips out opening night of a school play.
Clueless student-actors are left staring at scripts they never bothered to learn.
A box full of famous plays is found by the frantic student assistant director and stage manager. Mix and match the scripts, they tell the cast, improvise.
Called “Just Another High School Play” it’s a play within a play that’s funny, pun-y and lets South Whidbey High School students play high school students.
As the spring production for SWHS Drama Club, it’s the fourth play that students have stepped up to produce themselves since budget cuts ended the theater program about 10 years ago.
“The whole show is slapstick comedy,” said junior Marla Kelly, one of 19 students in the cast. “We really needed a play to do in the spring. It’s about these kids who never came to rehearsal and then the director apparently abandons them.
“Everything is in complete and utter chaos.”
Opening night is 7 p.m. Thursday, April 12. Performances are Thursday-Sunday April 12-15 and 20-22.
Unlike the characters of the play, the South Whidbey actors putting on the play love theater. And they dutifully came to rehearsal, even during this past week’s spring break.
“It’s just a lot of fun and a nice play that lets me be a high school student,” commented senior Caroline Burns back stage.
“It’s just really rewarding,” added 10th grader Sam Baesler.
Because a few of the cast members were out of town, director Nikki Enters hopped on the stage to read a few roles Wednesday evening.
Enters kept busy with drama, track and choir during her South Whidbey High days; she graduated in 2009.
“When I asked during auditions ‘Why be in a play?’ all of them said ‘because it’s an escape,’” Enters said.
“They are under a lot of pressure, some in sports, applying to colleges. Every school should have a theater program because it’s really needed.”
Enters and assistant director Amilyn Willis mostly sat in the back row of the empty auditorium. Willis is on the board of SWHS Performing Arts Booster that helps raise funds for band, choir and drama club.
Willis served as narrator. Enters yelled out the usual directorial pleas to speak louder and to remember blocking, theater talk for the physical arrangement of actors on the stage.
She also sung praises.
“That’s the first time you made it all the way through that number,” Enters raved following an unusual portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and Christmases Past, Present and Future. “Awesome.”
Modern day political correctness turns some well-known stories on their heads. Female cast members object to reading from “Little Women,” and to the title of the Louisa May Alcott novel.
Soon, their male peers come out on stage in satin green dresses with a flower border. In high voices, they introduce themselves as the March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.
Short on props and costumes, the play relies on the quick change artistry of the actors, which they pull off repeatedly. Fast is also the speed of the seven scenes in each of the two acts.
There’s occasional musical interludes, such as Kaija Moon Dahle playing the piano and Arlen E. Rankin singing the Tom Jones’ hit, “It’s Not Unusual.”
On stage is where these young actors want to be. Maybe for a long time.
“We believe drama and theater are an important part of student life,” said Margo Kelly, who serves as an officer in the drama club.
“You get this kind of camaraderie with people in the play. This is what I want to do later in life.”
South Whidbey High School Performing Arts Booster and SWHS Drama Club presents “Just Another High School Play” April 12-15, 20-22, 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, school auditorium. Suggested admission donation; $7 adults, $5 children.