Arts & Entertainment

Local High Schools Prepare Fall Theater Productions

Bella Orobaton (left), Tory Schatz (center) and Molly Stegman rehearse for Marhsall’s production of “The Twits,” which opens tonight. (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press)
Bella Orobaton (left), Tory Schatz (center) and Molly Stegman rehearse for Marhsall’s production of “The Twits,” which opens tonight. (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press)

A variety of theater plays, good for young and old, awaits area residents who only need to drive short distances and get free parking to see live performances on stage, made available at area high schools by parents, students, and staff.

A double-feature at George C. Marshall High School, “The Twits” and “Danny, the Champion of the World,” will start the shows when playgoers may “pay what they can” opening night October 15 at 7 p.m.

“Get Smart” at J.E.B. Stuart High School will start its “drama” on November 20, and learn how to spell fancy words like acouchis at “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at George Mason High School beginning November 19.

What about role-playing in fantasy land? That would be “She Kills Monsters” at McLean High School, starting December 3, and there’s always a big musical that never fails to entertain, “The Sound of Music” presented by Falls Church High December 3, 4 and 5.

If you have ever worked or lived underground, you know how dreadful and psychologically demoralizing it can be, for monkeys, too, who live with a mean family in a house without windows in the Roald Dahl story, “The Twits.”

Rehearsal at Marshall found students crouching on the floor mimicking timid monkeys ready to leap while other actors nearby practiced handstands which they must hold for a full minute, according to director Jason Tamborini who is in his fifth year of teaching drama at the school.

At Marshall six theater arts classes accommodate 160 students, a bigger enrollment than Tamborini’s undergraduate college, Niagara University, he said.

Tamborini usually handles set designs, but “the kids this year have taken it on and wanted to do it themselves,” including student Sarah Boyle, the costume designer, co-set designer, and she builds, too.

The second half of Marshall’s double-feature is “Danny, the Champion of the World” about a young girl and her father who encounter conflict while traveling the countryside in a Gypsy caravan fixing cars.

What’s a story without a conflict? Not a story!

At McLean High School “She Kills Monsters” is a comedy-drama which starts off “fantastical but gets more serious as it goes along,” said director Chip Rome. The play follows a girl who leaves home after her sister’s death and enters a sci-fi world.

“The actors are very enthusiastic, and we are off to a very good start” this year, said Rome, who is aided by an energetic backstage crew and assistant director Phil Reid.

It’s hard to keep a good theater man down. Rome returned to teaching and leading the drama department at McLean after directing a program for 33 years at another school.

Marshall students practice their handstands for the school’s production of “The Twits.” (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press)
Marshall students practice their handstands for the school’s production of “The Twits.” (Photo: Patricia Leslie/News-Press)

Julie Wharton is J.E.B. Stuart’s new director of drama, who returned to the U.S. after a family overseas assignment to Africa where Wharton taught drama.

Stuart parents alerted her to all the school’s comedians who led to “Get Smart” and a cast of 27.

Although the show was broadcast on TV for only five years (1965-1970), long before Stuart’s students were born, its popularity has endured, and “students watch it [online] and love it,” Wharton said. “A bunch here have seen the original” by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and wanted to do it. “It’s a really electric time, very, very funny,” Wharton said.

“The Sound of Music” at Falls Church High has a cast of 30 including a few elementary school students and a student-led ensemble of musicians, said Beth De Marco, the director.
The choreographer is a student, Caroline Plummer.

Anthony Khong, the choral director at Falls Church, is the music director for the performance, and James Senson is the pit director who will lead the student ensemble and also play the piano.
For costuming, “The Sound of Music” will borrow apparel from its own “costume closet” and from other schools, and, of course, “some moms will help,” De Marco said.

The money Falls Church earns from ticket sales goes into future productions, to help pay for scripts, construction, costuming, lights, sound, and programs, a practice no doubt followed at other schools, too.

On stage at Mason High School, six unique (to say the least) elementary school students vie to be the top speller in Putnam County’s musical comedy “Spelling Bee.”

Shawn Northrip, the director and theatre arts teacher at Mason, said everything is going smoothly among the 26 cast members and five musicians who will perform.

“So far, so good. No complaints,” and he reeled off the names of his colleagues who are assisting in the production: Mary Jo West, music director, Lauren Carpel, choral director, and John Ballou, construction and sound.

“Students pretty much do everything,” Northrip said. “The costuming crew is all student-run under my supervision. “We try to provide the opportunity for students to shine. It’s not my play; it’s theirs.”

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