Farcical comedy brings classic to life
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Dec 11, 2013 08:23 am
Some Oilfields High School students are struggling to stay serious amongst the chaos in their upcoming drama production.
Nineteen students have been cast in the classic American comedy “You Can’t Take It With You”, about a dysfunctional family who receives some unexpected visitors.
However, those few students playing the serious roles are having a tough time keeping a straight face.
“The mood is kind of silly so it’s hard to still remain serious and mature,” said Grade 11 student Riel Lowry, who plays the family’s daughter Alice. “You have to be very realistic all the time and it’s challenging.”
Lowry, whose character is head-over-heels in love with a boy from a rich family, finds the role unique from others she’s played at Oilfields High School.
“I’ve usually done more childish plays like ‘Treasure Island‘ and ‘The Snow Queen’,” she said. “This is a lot more mature.
“Sometimes it’s hard because there’s a lot of chaos on stage so you always have to be focused and know what’s going on all the time and be ready for your cue. If one person messes up, everyone kind of messes up.”
The school’s drama teacher Manda Henrichsen said this is because there are so many characters on stage at one time.
“The smallest amount of people on the set would be six and it goes all the way up to almost 19 of them,” she said. “I think it was a real challenge for all of them because there’s all sorts of one-liners.”
Henrichsen said she selected “You Can’t Take It With You” because she had 19 students who wanted a large role.
“Usually plays and musical theatres have stand-out characters,” she said. “In this one everybody contributes equally to the madness.”
Madness it is.
The three-act farcical comedy portrays a range of characters who are eccentric in their own way, said Henrichsen. For instance, Alice is a really bad dancer, but dances the whole time she’s on stage and her grandfather does whatever he can to avoid paying taxes.
“The story is pretty humourous,” she said. “You will probably have seen many parodies around it.”
In fact, the play won the 1937 Pulitzer Prize for best drama.
Henrichsen said it was a lot of fun taking on the play with it’s unique characters and array of accents including Russian, New York and southern.
The students took it on with great gusto, she said.
“They’ve had a lot of fun with experimenting on their own, trying to find their accents,” she said. “It’s just been really fun to completely transform them.”
Henrichsen said she received interest from her typical drama students during auditions, as well as others who will make their acting debut this week.
Not new to the stage is Grade 12 student Colby Willis, who has been in two other Oilfields High School productions.
Willis is taking on one of the more serious characters, Tony, who is Alice’s boyfriend and the son of a rich businessman.
“I like to be the silly one, but it’s a good change to broaden my horizons,” he said.
“It gives me a chance to do some serious acting instead of just silly roles.”
Since auditioning for the play, Willis had a feeling he would be cast as Tony.
“I feel like I’m one of the stronger actors and (Tony) is an important part,” he said.
Willis had a late start in acting, taking his first serious role in “The Music Man” a year ago, and he’s been hooked ever since.
“It’s kind of a rush to be in front of all those people and know they’re there for you,” he said. “I find it cool how you can change your personality completely for a different role every time.”
Grade 12 student Marcus Peiritsch is playing two serious roles — a ruthless taxman and a rich businessman. This is his fourth year performing in the Oilfields High School drama club.
“The last couple of years I’ve generally been more of a silly character and this year now I’m playing the more serious characters,” he said. “It’s a big challenge trying to make sure not to laugh on the stage at all.”
The other challenge Peiritsch faces is the amount of lines he needs to memorize, especially portraying two characters.
“It’s probably the longest play we’ve done,” he said. “We have a lot of new actors this year so it definitely is a challenge. Some of it is having people really trying to contribute to the play.
“For the first little bit we had trouble with that. Everyone has been taking it a little bit more seriously now.”
The drama club is performing a free matinee at Oilfields High School on Dec. 11 at 10:15 a.m. followed by performances on Dec. 13 and 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $5 each at the school.