Students polish production after a summer of practices
It’s tech week at Eastview High School, where students are polishing their production of “Noises Off,” Michael Frayn’s 1982 comedy of a play-within-a-play.
In this three-act farce, the cast will act out the first act of a fictional play called “Nothing On” three times. The audience will get three different perspectives: one from a pre-run rehearsal, one from a back-stage view and one from a performance near the end of the run.
Eastview High School English teacher and theater director Scott Durocher said he’s been waiting for the right moment and the right kids to pull off this play.
“It’s usually performed by community colleges or theaters,” he said. “But I knew they could do it.”
Durocher cast the play last spring, and required the students to meet electronically throughout the summer to practice their lines. The actors had to be off-script two weeks before school started, at which time they began practicing together at Eastview High School.
In addition to learning their lines, the student actors also learned how to use their entire bodies to perform comedy. Many of the primary characters spend the majority of their stage time running up and down stairs, rushing in and out of doors and scurrying about the wings of the stage.
It hasn’t been easy.
Jack Moody, who plays Garry Lejeune, said he learned how fall down the stairs without actually hurting himself. Hadley Ott, who plays Selsdon, has to roll through a window and fall onto the ground.
From perfecting their voice and diction to clearly deliver witty one-liners, to mastering the physicality of silent slapstick humor, these actors have stretched themselves beyond anything they’d experienced before.
Student director Jordan Holmsted said the actors have been up for the challenge since last spring.
“The cast has put in a monumental effort. They’ve put their fullest souls into the production.” she said. “I think this is one of the funniest shows we’ve ever done, and I think it has the most love put into it.”
Hannah Olsen is the only ninth-grader who is a principal character. She said it’s been a challenge to adjust to the demands of high school theater. A bigger stage, higher expectations and a wider age difference among actors seemed daunting at first, but now Olsen has found her place in the cast on and off stage.
Several of the actors expressed a similar sentiment. Working on the production has brought them together.
“None of us were super close before this,” said Mackenzie Scheldt who plays Belinda Blair. “But we’ve become friends on stage and off like the show requires us to.”
The actors said getting into character has been fun because of the casting – they said Durocher matched the personalities of the nine principal performers with their characters.
“All of us are really similar to our characters,” said Tim Morgenstern, who plays Lloyd Dallas. “It’s been fun to see how much like our characters we can be.”
Morgenstern said Durocher gave them a half-hour break during rehearsal one day. The principal characters decided to spend that time acting like their characters and making up their own lines. He said their director came back after the break to find them acting out their own mini-comedy.
“It’s like we are acting person-to-person rather than performer-to-performer,” said Mackenzie Donais who plays Kim Allgood.
The actors said their closeness has made the hours of rehearsals fly by.
“We have fun doing what we do,” said Jake Brockman, who plays Frederick Fellowes, “and that brings the show to life.”
The unique bond of the cast is not the only thing that sets this production apart.
Although the script calls for nine performers, Durocher has expanded the cast to include about 50 students. Members of the ensemble act as the play-within-the-play’s “tech-crew.”
In the first act, these students move about the theater space as if the audience is not in the room, ironing costumes in the aisles, standing on ladders to fix light fixtures and even helping one of the principal characters search the stage for a missing contact. In the second act, they help create the illusion that the audience is getting a glimpse into a back-stage view of the production.
Durocher said the ensemble has a challenging task — they must create a bustling backstage environment that doesn’t upstage the main performance.
Durocher has also incorporated a “text-crew.” He said one of his pet-peeves is when actors and tech-people text on their phones backstage during rehearsals and performances. This play provided the perfect opportunity to satirize the texting trend. Durocher enlisted a group of students to intentionally text one another throughout the entire performance.
These students, however, are not messing around. The “text-crew” developed their own characters and wrote their own script for the text conversation. During the show, audiences will be able to follow the group chat conversation, as the texts will be projected onto a large phone-shaped set piece.
Durocher hopes this unique performance will draw in patrons and new audiences alike. He said the community strongly supports Eastview’s musical theater program, and he wants to garner the same support for plays. He hopes this comedy piques the community’s interest.
The actors agree. They said this play is relatable, hilarious and highly-quotable, and they invite community members to come see the show.
Performances are Oct. 12, 13 and 14 at 7 p.m in the Eastview High School Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for students and seniors, and they can be purchased at the door or at www.evperformingarts.com. A free senior preview will be Oct. 10 at 3:30 p.m.
Contact Amy Mihelich at email@example.com.