What could possibly go wrong?
The answer to that question will be revealed by the Blue Comet Theatre League and “The Play that Goes Wrong.” Having prepped since early January, Chanute High School students will share the spotlight for community performances Thursday through Saturday at 7 pm in the CHS auditorium. District students will be treated to matinee performances on Thursday and Friday.
The comedy production is described as a play within a play, featuring technical gaffes, forgotten lines and sabotaged scenery. From actors to stagehands, CHS students have soaked up the experience.
“The reason I wanted to do this play is because of the love of the art and the passion to perform that I’ve developed over the past four years,” said senior Isaac Dowell.
Sophomore O’Neal Smith became interested in joining the cast as a way to improve his speech impediment.
“I sometimes have a bad speech stuttering impediment,” said Smith who plays Dennis and Perkins the butler. “I really wanted to do this play because I was hopeful it would help me with my speech and volume, and it really has helped with my enunciation and vocals. The character I play has a high-pitched voice.”
For sophomore Gabriel Wolf, portraying Robert and Thomas Collymore, it’s his first on-stage experience.
“I’ve really enjoyed going through and learning all of the main mechanics of how to be a true actor. I was in the class last year and that sparked a lot of interest,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to do something creative and this production has really helped me see that I do want to continue doing something like this in the future. I’ve learned a lot about acting as a possible career and how it can be very challenging in a lot of aspects. It’s fun, difficult and a great way to establish and strengthen relationships.”
Senior Matthew Woods has been on the set as stage manager, working as an understudy to master carpenter Matthew Bazil, the play’s technical director.
“All of the construction and carpentry knowledge I’ve gained this year has been through working under Bazil,” he said. “It’s a tech-heavy play and I’m really excited for that.”
Woods noted that the set is collapsible. “It’s been really fun building something that is meant to fall down,” he said.
Among other things, Woods is responsible for calling the cues for the spotlight and sound. The process has been exciting and stressful.
“I’ve learned that doing plays is like childbirth, you always forget the pains,” he said. “I got bit by the acting bug last year with my one, three-minute on-stage performance. I’m thankful for all the cast members and crew for their hard work. We’ve literally put our blood, sweat and tears into this.”
Woods has received a theatre tech scholarship to Allen Community College.
Sophomore Wyatt Scott joined as a stagehand and carpenter.
“I wanted to be involved mostly because of the lighting work, but also because I like building the set,” he said. “I’ll be pulling the magnets for stuff to fall off the set.
“I’ve learned basically everything I know about building. I’ve learned how to build flats and the proper way to put them up, as well as the jacks that are the superstructure on the set.”
The play has helped sophomore Josiah Bates enhance his acting credentials.
“I wanted to be a part of this play because I knew it was going to be top-notch,” said Bates, who plays the dual role of Trevor and the soundboard operator. “This is the funniest play I’ve ever been a part of throughout my acting career. I pretend to be the soundboard operator and get to make everyone laugh while doing so, which is one of my favorite things to do when acting. This has been one of the more strict plays I’ve been in, as you have to get the tempo and timing just right to get as much comedy or funny-factor as you can out of every moment.”
Ethan Burnett joined the cast as a way to add to his choir and band experience.
“With musicals, you focus more on the music side because that’s the more difficult side, but in plays you focus only on the acting,” he said. “So it’s been a novel experience to get more in-depth on the acting.”
Burnett noted that there really isn’t much of a difference between a play and a musical, as they’re both a series of sounds and silences performed at a certain tempo and pitch.
“I’m excited for the slapstick,” he said.
Freshman Lilian Strang plays Annie.
“I’m not very athletically-inclined, so here I am in theatre,” she said, adding that she enjoys the ensemble aspect of the production. “We’re such a small cast, have all become good friends, and I feel like we can rely on each other.”
Strang discussed the mindset on the set.
“What we have in mind is that we are not a high school group, we are doing our best to create a college-level play,” she said. “We are not intending to make a high school production.”
Freshman Jacob Shepherd was elated to be in on the production, and has previous production experience in sound effects.
“I wanted to do another play where I didn’t do sound effects,” he said. “Playing a character in a different kind of play and mood would change my perspective on the type of theatre I’m used to.”
As part of the stagecraft class, senior Gwen Summers was responsible for the scenic rendering of the set as well as the floor plan. The scenic rendering is a drawing of the set from the audience perspective, while the floor plan is a birds’ eye view. Those renderings were based on the script analysis. Upon completion, Summers handed off the drawings to Bazil, who then created blueprints for the set. Bazil also taught students the differences between Hollywood and Broadway flats, and many other things about theater construction.
Other community volunteers included Glenda Bruner and Diane Barton, who worked with students on scenic painting and set dressing, while Bob Cross handled script analyses. Local veterinarian Patty Ungles was tasked as the property manager, largely responsible for furniture and hand props, while Jillian Wilson is the stage manager and Marty Hutson is in charge of costumes.
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