Theatre is an art form often times not given the credit by high schoolers that it deserves. “Play On” is a comedy taken on by the TP Players as their first play of the school year and is constructed as a play-within-a-play.
“It’s almost like a tribute to acting,” TP Player Jackie Morales (12) said. “You see [the characters] going through [the] struggle of learning their lines, but also messing up on their lines and how much the show actually changes from the day you get the script to the day of final production.”
The first thing I noticed as I sat in on an early rehearsal of “Play On” was that it was not nearly as hard to understand when performed as it is to talk about. It may help to watch from Act I, but even as I sat in on Act III, the final act of the play, I was able to ascertain some background by the time I left.
Of the 10 performers in “Play On,” six are also actors in the play-within-a-play, called “Murder Most Foul.” As such, these characters are given second names and costumes, which makes the change to the play-within-a-play discernible from the rest of the performance. This is also clarified by the use of British accents for the actors performing “Murder Most Foul.”
As the only costume designer for the production, Natalie Anashkin (10), is responsible for all the costumes, including the second set worn during the play-within-a-play.
“Because this is a high school theatre, we don’t have the time or budget to make every single costume,” Anashkin said. “So we use some [costumes we already have] and incorporate them into some of the [new] costumes.”
For this performance, Anashkin drew inspiration from the Victorian era and the 1950s for the actors’ costumes and streetwear.
“I like to think of [costume design] like I’m shopping for my friends,” Anashkin said. “You get to know the characters’ personalities and draw what you think they would wear.”
According to student director Chelney Cameron (12), characterization figures heavily in the play, since most actors have two roles.
“I like to come [to rehearsal] and watch how the actors interpret the character, so if we have different interpretations it doesn’t clash with the costume,” Anashkin said.
Five of the 10 actors you’ll see on stage are making their debut performances. While their lack of experience may be a cause for concern, it is, in fact, the opposite; the new talent seems to add to the show with unique personalities and comedic performances.
“Even if you’re a beginning actor, it’s your [first time] experiencing it and then your character is also experiencing it … for the first time,” Morales said. “It’s like someone you have sympathy for and can relate to.”
As a member of the audience, I can hardly discern who has experience and who does not. Even on the rare occasions that I could tell, I’m sure the scenes will be made seamless by directors Marinee Payne and Cameron long before the cast stands in front of an audience.
“I always have student directors because … I love to … give students the opportunity to try different kinds of things,” Payne said. “Chelney’s been an actor, Chelney’s been a lighting designer, Chelney’s worked behind the scenes consistently.”
Prior to this, I had only seen one TP Player Production, the 2016-17 fall production called “Secret in the Wings.” I recall it as a performance that I enjoyed with an interesting scenario and skilled acting, although it left me slightly confused in the end. I already know that will not be a problem with “Play On,” despite my personal ineptitude for remembering names.
“I think I’m looking forward to how the people progress [the most],” Cameron said. “Each person is three people: his- or herself when they break character, when their character breaks character, and their own character.”
After only a single sitting, I knew that “Play On” was a performance I would pay to see on its completion. My small glimpse at the play tells me that all of the actors, first-timers or not, have much more talent than I would ever be capable of. It exhibits a type of humor that is appealing to all, and Act III alone was enough to keep me giggling quietly throughout the rehearsal, even with the limited background knowledge I had at the time, as well as the lack of costumes or props and the script-reading on stage, as actors had yet to go scriptless at rehearsal.
Needless to say, I have high hopes for the comedy show and its cast, and expect to see many fellow students at the performance.