Thursday, March 25, 2010

Play Rehearsal Prompts Thinking Outside the Curtain

        It’s Friday night in Wayland, and high school students are kicking back with friends over pizza ending another long week at school.
         -Not all kids, though.
         Dedicated members of the Drama Club are rehearsing for the spring production of M.A.S.H., the popular comedy from the seventies, about the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital.
          It’s not easy finding time in busy schedules for play practice, but the curtain will go up on Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27 in the Wayland-Cohocton high school auditorium at 7 PM.    
         “This is my first play, and it is a blast!” grins senior Jamie Roche, who will play Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan. 
         “It’s such a great experience. We have so much fun. We’re like a family, and entertaining people never gets old,” explains veteran high school actor Paul Lysek, who’s been in eleven shows.
         “I watched a couple episodes of the TV series, and I did take in some of Duke Forrest, the doctor that I am portraying, but basically I am doing my own interpretation.”
          “Ever since I was in M.A.S.H. myself with the Genesee Ensemble Theater years ago in Dansville, I have loved the show,” remarks Rich Miller, first-time director for a school production.         
         “The script is cleanly written, and it is appropriate for high school students. None of the cast knew much about M.A.S.H. except from what their parents told them, and that has required each actor to go inward to develop a creative approach that would work best for him.”        
         A play production is a teaching-learning experience that is not without its risks.
         Miller, a Science teacher in the Wayland-Cohocton district, says that he knew little about theater from the directing standpoint, but a lot about the technical side having done work at Bristol Valley Playhouse in Naples numerous summers.
         “I am not use to making all the decisions. I have been the one offering suggestions in past productions to other directors from my technical perspective. Now I’m on the line.”
         “It took four tries to get a General Hammond in place, but we now have a good solid actor in Kyle Carmen. Untimely illness, and deficient grades in another case, a requirement at Wayland for participation in extra-curricula activities, kept Miller searching for an actor right up until recently.
         The production has been a confidence booster for many cast members as well.
         “Going to a small school I already knew everybody, but joining the cast has given me a bunch of new friends,” says Jordan Rizzieri shyly, who plays Ho-Jon.
         Commitment and dependability are areas that these cast members have found crucial because each one supports the other. The backstage prop collection and set design have been part of the duties of each actor. Everyone will show up for the “strike down” of the sets on Sunday afternoon to complete the full cycle of a play production.
         Ben Robinson, who plays Hawkeye Pierce, remarked that he struggled making his character come alive.  At first he tried acting like Donald Sutherland, who was Hawkeye in the movie. Then he watched a little of Alan Alda in the TV series.  Robinson says that he wisely chose to do it his own way. He polished and perfected Hawkeye while interacting on stage with the other players over the past two months. There was an element of thinking outside the box for him.
         “I spend my free time summers hanging out with actors and observing them at Bristol Valley Playhouse, because I hope to become one myself.”
         Rehearsals have been closed and all the cast members like it that way. They want to surprise the audience, especially their parents, who they hope will be taking an enjoyable walk down memory lane.
         “These kids have grown up as techies, and they are more comfortable with cell phones and other hand helds versus live audiences. They are learning to break the invisible wall barrier in their minds to reach the audience,” states Miller.
         “Live theater will help them in their future careers become more poised and able to think on their feet.”
         With a combination of old and new relationships, the Wayland cast of M.A.S.H. is doing exactly what the real life medical unit did in the seventies. They are working under the circumstances at hand, and developing unique bonds with an assortment of others that share the same vision.