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SLHS's 'Funny Thing Happened' On Schedule

Most shows, Maria Harris said, come together at the last minute.

Blocking assignments may be a little off, and actors may not have their lines down pat until a few days before opening night. But last Thursday, just nine days before the South Lakes High School presentation of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," Harris was unusually calm.

The last week before opening night is often called hell week because of the long hours and frazzled nerves. But Harris, director of the South Lakes theater department, wasn’t expecting this last week to be especially hellish.

"The show is ready from start to finish," she said. "We’re just going to run it, run it, run it, for comfort’s sake."

The actors agreed with the director. Senior Ross Oklewicz, who is playing Hysterium, said everyone is confident the play will be a success. Even so, he expects to be nervous once he steps on stage.

"You’re always going to be nervous," Oklewicz said. He has a singing solo in the musical. It is his first solo as an actor.

"It’s scary for me," he said. "I’m not a very good singer. But its good to be a little nervous."

THE STEPHEN SONDHEIM comedy musical is set in Ancient Rome and is based on the comedies of Titus Maccius Plautus. The plot revolves around Pseudolus, a slave who wants to be free. Pseudolus, played by DJ Cashmere, is promised his freedom if he can arrange a marriage between Hero (the slave-owner’s son, played by senior John-Currie Hester), and Phylia (sophomore Shani McCrea), a courtesan who has already been sold into marriage. Most of the show’s humor arises out of Pseudolus’ scheming and deception.

Members of the upper level drama class at South Lakes chose the musical for its humor. Harris said she spent a lot of time working with actors, developing their comedic timing.

"It takes a lot of practice," Harris said. "Line interpretation is important. The show can go a lot of levels. How you emphasize or stress a certain word can make a lot of difference."

Harris said she has seen some racy versions of the show, but she toned down the South Lakes version. South Lakes audiences are usually full of families, so Harris chose to downplay some of the more suggestive dialogue.

"There’s a lot of wordplay that kids won’t get until they’re older," Hester said.

In addition to comedic timing, the actors worked hard on timing their stage movements. The play has a 33-member cast, and in one of the ending scenes, the entire ensemble is involved in an extended chase. The actors said it took a lot of practice to perfect that scene. Although it is meant to look unorganized, the scene is the product of precise planning.

"It’s organized chaos," McCrea said.

"A FUNNY Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" is South Lakes’ last play of the school year. For the seniors, it is the last play of their high school careers. Both Hester and Oklewicz have been involved in the theater department throughout their time at South Lakes. Oklewicz does not plan to study theater in college, but said he plans on staying involved with community theater. Hester, a vocalist, plans on studying music in college, with some concentration on the dramatic arts.

"Its been four years of some really awesome memories," Oklewicz said. "I’ve made some great friends."

"It will be sad to see them go," said Harris, of her senior students.

Junior Daniel Katz, who is playing Senex, agreed.

"I’ve been working with these two [Hester and Oklewicz] since I was a freshman."