Upon finishing his freshman year of college, South Lakes graduate DJ Cashmere brought home an important piece of advice: You have to create your own opportunities.
So he made a series of phone calls and one thing led to another.
Three months later, Cashmere, along with 16 of his talented friends who met through high-school theater, have started their own theater company and are ready to begin their second weekend performing "The Country Club."
"I knew I was going to be hanging out with these people all summer, so I thought: Why not put our creative energies together?" said Cashmere, who will be a sophomore at University of Southern California.
Most of the group has already graduated from South Lakes, and have all moved on to study the performing arts in some form.
Like the South Lakes graduates, the characters in "The Country Club" have reunited, but under different circumstances.
THE PLAY is about seven friends, all 28 years old, who have known each other since their early school days. At the beginning of act one, they find themselves reunited with Soos, an old friend who has just returned home.
Each scene takes place on a different holiday, starting with New Year’s. The characters find themselves tangled in a web of friendship and love affairs.
Written by Douglas Carter Beane and set in the late 1990s, the play combines the serious and the humorous, and serves as a satire on privileged lifestyles and prejudice in modern society.
The Walking Shadow Theater Company, as the South Lakes graduates have named themselves, include the seven-person cast along with many members who work behind the scenes.
As stage manager and technical director, Craig Lewis is in charge of calling cues and directing scene changes during the play, as well as finding props and developing the overall physical set up.
Since the play takes place throughout a number of different holidays, it has been challenging for Lewis to find out-of-season props on sale this time of year, and he has crafted many of the props himself. According to Lewis, his job requires a lot of patience, in addition to leadership and listening skills. "I enjoy working with these people," said Lewis, who graduated from South Lakes in 2004 and now majors in dance at Point Park University.
"When DJ told me the idea, I was instantly in because I loved the idea and I love these people."
Director Samual Repshas coaches the actors themselves. "I'm here to help the actors achieve their highest potential as performers," said Repshas. "I'm also here to create a comfortable working environment."
Unlike many theater students, Repshas hated his first theater experience. In fifth grade, he took the class Young Actors Studio held at the Reston Community Center, but he did nothing exciting like the characters in action movies he saw on television.
In sixth grade, however, Repshas took the same class and loved it. "It really opened my eyes on how to have fun with theater — you can enjoy it if you work hard."
Repshas participated in theater all four years of high school and contributed to more than 10 shows. He recently graduated with the South Lakes class of 2005 and will study theater at Tulane University in the fall. He has opened up his basement for rehearsal this summer.
CASHMERE "got the bug" for acting in fourth grade, playing Tom Sawyer. "I couldn't get enough of it," said Cashmere, who participated in 12 shows during his time at South Lakes. "I like to make people think. The audience always leaves the theater thinking — or laughing, or crying — after a performance. So it’s an interesting medium in that sense."
Cashmere was nominated for best actor in 2004 for his performance in "Whose Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" through the National Capital area Critics and Awards Program (Cappies) — and won.
Performances in that show also won South Lakes the award for best supporting actress, as well as nominations for best sound and best play.
Amy Lerner, a rising junior at New York University majoring in acting, has taken on a number of different roles this summer. As one of three co-producers, she has assisted in fund raising, publicity, ticket reservations and finding the space to perform.
Lerner also loves acting, and like director Repshas, her interest began with Young Actor's Studio at the Reston Community Center.
"It's about exploring the way people think," said Lerner, who is playing Soos. "I like that the most."
After their sixth and final performance closes this weekend, The Walking Shadow Theater Company will perform another important act — they're donating all the money earned through ticket sales to The William E. Doar Public Charter School for the Performing Arts, an elementary school with a focus in theater in Washington, D.C.