"Refund" is one of four, student-directed plays presented during Centreville High's Dramapalooza. Showtimes are Friday, Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m., in the school theater. Tickets are $4 at the door.
PROSPECTIVE directors submitted three plays each to Centreville technical director Mike Hudson, who approved the plays and chose the directors. Directed by senior Will Prescott, 18, "Refund" is about a former student who returns to his old high school, a private school, and tries to get a refund for his tuition fees.
"He says he didn't get a good education and keeps losing jobs because he's not intelligent," explained Prescott. "So the teachers each give him an exam. The student, Wasserkopf (which means "waterhead" in German), gives all the wrong answers, but the teachers find a way to make them correct so he'll pass. So he's tricked into not getting his money back."
Prescott said it's a really funny comedy and it's easy to demonstrate the humor to the audience. It's his first time directing, and he's delighted. "I organize rehearsals, tell actors where they need to be, how to move around, and what attitude and personality to portray when they say their lines," he said. "I let them make their own choices, but cut lines when needed to help the play make sense."
It can be frustrating at times, he said, "because my cast of seven gets easily distracted, so it's hard keeping them on task. Also, their schedule conflicts make it difficult to get everyone at each rehearsal. We've tried to rehearse three times a week, since January. But they're all nice people and fun to work with."
What Prescott likes best about directing is "being able to shape a vision into something." And he believes the show will go over really well because "all the people cast are very good at their roles so they'll get the idea across very easily."
Charlie Schneider, 15, plays the physics teacher, a sophisticated man with a European background. "When I think about my character, I think about Sean Connery in 'Finding Forrester' — kind of reserved, but he can blow up if he gets angry," said Schneider. "I like being able to experiment with his mood."
HIS CHARACTER gets mad at Wasserkopf and, said Schneider, "gets to play with his head when he's interrogating him during the oral exam. It's a very witty play and a humorous script. Wasserkopf is a smart guy, but he plays dumb and trips himself up."
Freshman Taylor DeVito plays the principal's secretary. "I'm blonde, trampish and flirtatious," she said. "I take orders, but don't really like to. I love this role — it's fun because, even though I don't have a lot of lines, I can still work with them and make them funny."
As the secretary, she said, "I don't have to think a lot — I just go with it." However, since her character has to wear a really short skirt and high heels, DeVito said, "The hard part is having my [real-life] parents see me dressed this way."
Playing the principal is Jackie Chiao, 15. "She likes to be in control, but sometimes she doesn't know what she's talking about," she explained. "But the other professors support her."
She likes her part because "it gives me a chance to experiment with other people. And as a freshman, it's a big role. This character can get mad quickly but, all of a sudden, she'll be really happy, and it's fun to show these changes."
Sophomore Alison Robinson portrays the math teacher who's responsible for Wasserkopf passing the test because she tricks him on the last question. "I really like it because I normally play teen-agers and it's fun to play someone older and different from myself," she said. "My character's so determined and focused that it's hard to balance her intelligence with her nice personality. But she's genuine and, even though she's smarter than everyone else, she's still down-to-earth and humble."
Stage manager Samantha Hansen, 17, assists and brainstorms with the director. She helps supervise the cast and writes down the blocking — where actors should stand — plus any script changes.
"I enjoy it," she said. "The hardest part is getting everything together and making sure things are believable and realistic enough so that the audience will come away with something they can learn from and remember. They should find it entertaining — it's funny to see a con man who thinks he's clever get shot down."